Are Census Omissions of Young Children Due to Respondent Misconceptions about the Census?

Deborah H. Griffin, William P. O'Hare


The United States Census Bureau acknowledges the systematic undercount of young children in censuses and widely used surveys. Despite the growing body of research to understand the scope and characteristics of undercounted young children, little is known about likely causes. Missing from the research are efforts to talk with respondents about possible reasons for young child omissions. This study addresses that shortcoming using data from an online survey asking 800 respondents with young children several questions related to children and the census. The results indicate that many respondents have doubts about including young children in the census count for their household. Only 82 percent of low-income parents of young children responded that they would include their young child in the census count for their household. This percentage was lower if children had weaker ties to a household. These survey results provide evidence that misconceptions and confusion about including young children in the census exist and could easily result in young child omissions. These findings warrant replication and suggest that significant changes in instructions are needed to dispel these respondent misconceptions.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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