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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

Demographic Background

Understanding the changing demographic characteristics of America's children is critical for shaping social programs and policies. The number of children determines the demand for schools, health care, and other social services that are essential for meeting the daily needs of families. While 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 ethnic composition of the Nation's children continues to change. Demographic composition provides an important context for understanding the indicators presented in this report and provides a glimpse of future American families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 73.6 million children in the United States in 2016, which was 1.2 million more than in 2000. This number is projected to increase to 76.3 million in 2030. In 2016 (the latest year of data available at the time of publication), there were fewer children in the 0–5 age group (24.0 million) than in the 6–11 age group (24.7 million) or the 12–17 age group (25.0 million).

Indicator POP1: Number of children ages 0–17 in the United States, 1950–2016 and projected 2017–2050
Indicator POP1: Number of children ages 0–17 in the United States, 1950–2016 and projected 2017–2050

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.

Since the mid-1960s, children have decreased as a proportion of the total U.S. population. In 2016, children made up 23 percent of the population, down from a peak of 36 percent at the end of the "baby boom," in 1964. Children's share of the population is projected to continue its slow decline through 2050, when children are projected to make up 20 percent of the population.

Indicator POP2: Children ages 0–17 and adults ages 65 and older as a percentage of the U.S. population, 1950–2016 and projected 2017–2050
Indicator POP2: Children ages 0–17 and adults ages 65 and older as a percentage of the U.S. population, 1950–2016 and projected 2017–2050

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.

Racial and ethnic diversity have grown dramatically in the United States in the last three decades. This growth was first evident among children. In 2016, 51 percent of U.S. children were White, non-Hispanic; 25 percent were Hispanic; 14 percent were Black, non-Hispanic; 5 percent were Asian, non-Hispanic; and 5 percent were non-Hispanic "All other races."

This population is projected to become even more diverse in the decades to come. Whereas the percentages of children in most of the other racial and ethnic origin groups have declined, the percentage of children who are Hispanic has experienced substantial growth, increasing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 25 percent in 2016. In 2020, less than half of all children are projected to be White, non-Hispanic. By 2050, it is projected that 39 percent of all children will be White, non-Hispanic; 32 percent will be Hispanic; 13 percent will be Black, non-Hispanic; 7 percent will be Asian, non-Hispanic; and 9 percent will be non-Hispanic "all other races."

Indicator Pop3: Percentage of children ages 0–17 in the United States by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2016 and projected 2017–2050
Indicator POP3: Percentage of children ages 0–17 in the United States by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2016 and projected 2017–2050

NOTE: The abbreviation NH refers to non-Hispanic origin. The abbreviation 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.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.

table icon POP1 HTML Table, table icon POP2 HTML Table, table icon POP3 HTML Table