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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012

Demographic Background

Understanding the changing demographic characteristics of America's children is critical for shaping social programs and public policies. The number of children determines demand for schools, health care, and other services essential to meet the daily needs of families. Although the number of children living in the United States has grown, the ratio of children to adults has decreased. At the same time, the racial and Hispanic composition of the Nation's children continues to change.

In 2011, there were 73.9 million children in the United States, 1.5 million more than in 2000. This number is projected to increase to 101.6 million by 2050. In 2011, there were similar numbers of children in each of the following three age groups: 0–5 years (24.3 million), 6–11 years (24.6 million), and 12–17 years (25.1 million).

In 2011, children made up 24 percent of the population, down from a peak of 36 percent at the end of the "baby boom" (1964). Children are projected to remain a fairly stable percentage of the total population through 2050, when they are projected to compose 23 percent of the population.

Racial and ethnic diversity has grown in the United States, and the composition of the population continues to change. By 2023, less than half of all children are projected to be White, non-Hispanic (Figure 1). By 2050, 39 percent of U.S. children are projected to be Hispanic (up from 24 percent in 2011), and 38 percent are projected to be White, non-Hispanic (down from 53 percent in 2011). Children who identify with two or more race groups are projected to make up 5 percent of all U.S. children by 2050 (up from 4 percent in 2011). Children who are Asian alone are projected to increase from 4 percent of the U.S. child population in 2011 to 6 percent in 2050.

Figure 1: Percentage of children ages 0–17 in the United States by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011 and projected 2012–2050
The data in this figure is represented in table POP3

NOTE: The acronym NH refers to non-Hispanic origin. The acronym NHPI refers to the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population. Each group represents the non-Hispanic population, with the exception of the Hispanic category itself. Race data from 2000 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Population projections are based on Census 2000 and may not be consistent with the 2010 Census results.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Censuses and Population Estimates and Projections.