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- Definition: Estimated child population ages 0-17 (e.g., in 2020, 9,026,052 children lived in California).
- Data Source: California Dept. of Finance, Population Estimates and Projections (May 2020); U.S. Census Bureau, Population and Housing Unit Estimates (Jul. 2020).
- Measures of Demographics on Kidsdata.org
Indicators on kidsdata.org cover a range of demographic measures from a variety of sources:
The number of births overall and per 1,000 women (the general fertility rate), and the number and percentage of births by mother's race/ethnicity, come from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
The number and percentage of births by mother's marital status are available for California and the U.S.; these data come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and also are available by mother's race/ethnicity.*
Estimates of the child population from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community survey are available overall and by race/ethnicity for counties, cities, school districts and legislative districts; also available are estimates of the number and percentage of California and U.S. children living in rural and urban areas.
County-level estimates (from 1995) and projections (to 2060) of the child population overall, by gender and age group, and by race/ethnicity, are available from the California Department of Finance; also available are estimates and projections for the total population.Data based on student reports of parent education level, youth sexual orientation, and transgender status come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS); depending on the indicator, estimates are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and/or non-traditional), gender, level of school connectedness, parent education level, and sexual orientation.**
*California data from CDPH and CDC should not be compared due to potential differences in race/ethnicity coding.
**State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools. Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
- Births, by Mother's Marital Status (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)
- Child Population, by Race/Ethnicity (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population, by County
- Total Population
- Projected Child Population, by County
- Projected Total Population
- Highest Level of Parent Education, by Child's Grade Level
- Youth Sexual Orientation, by Grade Level
- Transgender Youth, by Grade Level
- Characteristics of Children with Special Needs
- Student Demographics
- Public School Enrollment
- Special Education Enrollment
- High-Need Students (Unduplicated Pupil Count)
- Students Eligible for Free or Reduced Price School Meals
- English Learners in Public Schools
- Students Eligible for Migrant Education Program
- Family Structure
- Infant Mortality
- Teen Births
- Why This Topic Is Important
Child and family demographic trends help project potential needs for education, child care, health care, and other services. Demographic projections point to an overall shortage of children relative to older populations, which will lead to workforce and taxpayer shortages in the coming decades (1, 2). This means each child is more important to the future of California and the U.S. than ever before (1). It also means that leaders need to invest in programs and policies that nurture children and help them reach their potential, and they need to align service systems with shifting demographics. For example, leaders can ensure that culturally appropriate services are available for families and that communities with higher concentrations of children have adequate resources in place to support them.Demographic factors also matter because the circumstances in which children are born and grow up—as well as larger structural forces such as economics, institutions, and policies—strongly influence their health and well being (3). Decades of research demonstrate inequities in children's well being by race/ethnicity, parent education level, socioeconomic status, and other social characteristics (3, 4, 5). In addition, factors such as youth sexual orientation and gender identification are important, as LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for bullying victimization, substance abuse, child maltreatment, and other negative health and social outcomes (6, 7). The demographic composition and circumstances of children, youth, and families can provide critical insight into population needs.
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section. Also see the following topics on kidsdata.org: Student Demographics, Family Structure, and Immigrants.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Myers, D. (2017). The new importance of children in America. Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health & Children's Hospital Association. Retrieved from: https://www.lpfch.org/publication/new-importance-children-america
2. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2019). Demographic background. In America's children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/demo.asp
3. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. (2014). Time to act: Investing in the health of our children and communities. Retrieved from: https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/01/recommendations-from-the-rwjf-commission-to-build-a-healthier-am.html
4. Helping parents, helping children: Two-generation mechanisms. (2014). The Future of Children, 24(1). Retrieved from: https://futureofchildren.princeton.edu/resource-links/helping-parents-helping-children-two-generation-mechanisms
5. Flores, G., & American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Pediatric Research (2010). Racial and ethnic disparities in the health and health care of children. Pediatrics, 125(4), e979-e1020. Retrieved from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/4/e979
6. Burwick, A., et al. (2014). Human services for low-income and at-risk LGBT populations: An assessment of the knowledge base and research needs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Retrieved from: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/human-services-for-low-income-and-at-risk-lgbt-populations-an-assessment-of-the-knowledge-base-and-research-needs
7. Choi, S. K., et al. (2017). LGBTQ youth in California's public schools: Differences across the state. Williams Institute. Retrieved from: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/lgbtq-youth-ca-public-schools
- How Children Are Faring
The number of children in California has declined since the mid-2000s, from an estimated 9.6 million in 2004 to 9 million in 2020. Population projections indicate this figure will fall to 8.3 million by 2035. The proportion of children in the state's total population also is decreasing, from 28% in 1995 to 23% in 2020, with a projected drop to 18% by 2045. In line with these trends, California's birth rate has declined in recent decades, from 76 births per 1,000 women in 1995 to 59 per 1,000 in 2017, the most recent year available.
Population structure and dynamics vary widely at the local level. According to 2020 estimates, five Southern California counties are home to more than half of the state's child population—Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino—with nearly one in four children living in Los Angeles County alone. By contrast, counties in the Central Valley have among the highest birth rates and proportions of children within the population; e.g., the birth rate in Kings County in 2017 was 83 per 1,000 women (compared with 54 per 1,000 for Los Angeles and 46 per 1,000 for San Francisco), and the percentage of children in Kings County relative to the population overall in 2020 was 29% (compared with 22% for Los Angeles and 15% for San Francisco).
In 2020, Hispanic/Latino children made up nearly half (48%) of the state's child population, up from 41% in 1995, and white children made up less than one-third (29%), down from 40% in 1995. At the county level, estimates of the proportion of Hispanic/Latino children in the total child population ranged from 15% to 88%, while the proportion of white children ranged from 9% to 76%. Statewide, 13% of California children were Asian American, 5% were African American/black, 4% were multiracial, and less than 1% were American Indian/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.Estimates of parent education levels, available from 2015-2017 surveys of public school students, indicate that between 37% and 40% of California 7th, 9th, and 11th graders had parents who completed at least a 4-year college degree, while 9% to 19% had parents who did not finish high school. Students in non-traditional programs, those with low levels of school connectedness, gay/lesbian/bisexual students, and Hispanic/Latino youth were more likely to have parents who did not finish high school than their peers in other groups.
Statewide estimates of youth sexual orientation from the same surveys show that 10% of 11th grade females and 3.9% of 11th grade males identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, while 3.3% of all 11th graders were unsure about their sexual orientation. In addition, an estimated 1.6% of 11th graders identified as transgender.
- Policy Implications
In order to plan appropriate policies and programs to meet community needs, policymakers need to understand the size and composition of the populations they serve, how that varies by geography, and how conditions are changing. The environments in which children are born and raised have a profound impact on their health and well being (1, 2). Data on kidsdata.org and elsewhere show persistent inequities in child and youth outcomes by demographic factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parent education level, and LGBTQ status (1, 2, 3). For example, children of color and low-income children generally fare worse across measures of health and well being for reasons that are avoidable (1, 2). Policymakers have a role in addressing these disparities and ensuring that all children and families, regardless of social position or circumstance, have equitable opportunities to thrive (1, 2).
Demographic projections suggest additional reasons to invest in children. Data show growing numbers of retiring seniors, a shrinking child population, and expected workforce and taxpayer shortages in the coming decades, making children a more important resource than ever before (4). Society's increasing reliance on a relatively smaller population of children creates a new urgency to ensure today's children and families have the support they need to reach their full potential.
Policy and program options to address inequities in child well being and promote healthy, thriving children and families include:
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Immigrants, Student Demographics, and Family Income and Poverty.
- Investing in the health and development of young children, especially those from low-income families, as the early years provide a foundation for lifelong well being; in particular, ensuring that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education (2, 4, 5)
- Fostering stable, nurturing family relationships and home environments by ensuring that effective services are in place, including culturally appropriate parenting education, family support, mental health, and home-visiting services for families in need (2, 5, 6)
- Ensuring that every young person has access to family-centered, culturally competent, coordinated health care within a medical home (7)
- Supporting a comprehensive approach to health care that goes beyond treating illness to addressing social determinants of health, such as access to healthy food and safe housing (2)
- Maintaining and strengthening social safety net programs (e.g., nutritional support, housing assistance, and tax credits), and increasing enrollment among eligible children and families (8)
- Promoting safe, healthy schools and communities in which all youth have access to supportive relationships, needed services, and positive opportunities; this is especially critical for vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ youth (1, 5, 6, 9)
- Ensuring equitable access to high-quality K-12 education and affordable postsecondary education, including adult education opportunities for parents (1, 3, 10)
- Building neighborhoods that are safe and designed to promote health; as part of this, incentivizing collaboration among community planning, housing, transportation, health care, public health, education, and other sectors (1, 2)
- Allocating community resources and distributing services in alignment with demographic trends, so that neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of children have adequate infrastructure and services to support family needs (11)
- Promoting cross-sector strategies to reduce service fragmentation and system barriers, so that families can more easily navigate and access needed services (1, 2)
Sources for this narrative:
1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Communities in action: Pathways to health equity. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24624/communities-in-action-pathways-to-health-equity
2. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. (2014). Time to act: Investing in the health of our children and communities. Retrieved from: https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/01/recommendations-from-the-rwjf-commission-to-build-a-healthier-am.html
3. Helping parents, helping children: Two-generation mechanisms. (2014). The Future of Children, 24(1). Retrieved from: https://futureofchildren.princeton.edu/resource-links/helping-parents-helping-children-two-generation-mechanisms
4. Myers, D. (2017). The new importance of children in America. Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health & Children's Hospital Association. Retrieved from: https://www.lpfch.org/publication/new-importance-children-america
5. Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation's young people. Child Trends & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/are-the-children-well-a-model-and-recommendations-for-promoting-the-mental-wellness-of-the-nations-young-people
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Essentials for childhood: Creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/essentials.html
7. National Resource Center for Patient/Family-Centered Medical Home. (2020). Why is medical home important? American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from: https://medicalhomeinfo.aap.org/overview/Pages/Evidence.aspx
8. Danielson, C. (2020). California's future: Safety net. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-future-safety-net
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health: LGBT youth. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm
10. Noguera, P. A. (2017). Introduction to "Racial inequality and education: Patterns and prospects for the future." The Educational Forum, (81)2, 129-135. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131725.2017.1280753
11. McCroskey, J., et al. (2017). Birth trends and family demographics across Los Angeles County: How they are changing and why it matters. Children's Data Network. Retrieved from: https://www.datanetwork.org/cdn-apps/snapshots-of-child-well-being-in-los-angeles-county
- Websites with Related Information
- California School Boards Association: Governance and Policy Resources
- Center for the Study of Social Policy: LGBTQ+
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Equity
- Child Trends: Racial Equity
- Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
- Healthy People 2030: Populations. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
- Kaiser Family Foundation: Disparities Policy
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health: LGBT Youth. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Life Course and Social Determinants: Professional Resource Brief. Maternal and Child Health Digital Library.
- Opportunity Insights
- Pew Research Center: Social and Demographic Trends
- Public Policy Institute of California: Population
- Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health: Professional Resource Guide. Maternal and Child Health Digital Library.
- Urban Institute: Social Determinants of Health
- Key Reports and Research
- ¿Cómo Están los Niños?: The Health of Latino Children and Families in California. (2014). Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health & Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative.
- Advances in Research with LGBTQ Youth in Schools. (2016). Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. Heck, N. C., et al.
- California LGBTQ Youth Report. (2019). Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
- California's Future. (2021). Public Policy Institute of California. Bohn, S., et al.
- Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. (2017). National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- Disparities for LGBTQ and Gender Nonconforming Adolescents. (2018). Pediatrics. Baams, L.
- Dramatic Increase in the Proportion of Births Outside of Marriage in the United States from 1990 to 2016. (2018). Child Trends. Wildsmith, E., et al.
- Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents. (2018). Pediatrics. Rafferty, J., et al.
- Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms. (2014). The Future of Children.
- How the U.S. Hispanic Population Is Changing. (2017). Pew Research Center. Flores, A.
- Improving Outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color. (2016). Urban Institute. Ferguson, R. F., & Simms, M.
- Key Facts About Asian Americans, a Diverse and Growing Population. (2021). Pew Research Center. Budiman, A., & Ruiz, N. G.
- Landscape of Opportunity. (2021). California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.
- LGBTQ Youth in California’s Public Schools: Differences Across the State. (2017). Williams Institute. Choi, S. K., et al.
- Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective. (2019). National Bureau of Economic Research. Chetty, R., et al.
- Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Health and Health Care of Children. (2013). Pediatrics. Flores, G., & American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Pediatric Research.
- The New Importance of Children in America. (2017). Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health & Children’s Hospital Association. Myers, D.
- Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities. (2014). Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. Arkin, E., et al. (Eds.).
- Visualizing Trends for Children of Immigrants. (2022). Urban Institute.
- County/Regional Reports
- A Portrait of Los Angeles County: Los Angeles County Human Development Report 2017-2018. (2018). Measure of America. Lewis, K., & Burd-Sharps, S.
- A Portrait of Sonoma County. (2021). Measure of America. Lewis, K.
- Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County. Orange County Children's Partnership.
- Birth Trends and Family Demographics Across Los Angeles County: How They Are Changing and Why It Matters. (2017). Children's Data Network. McCroskey, J., et al.
- Key Indicators of Health by Service Planning Area. (2017). Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Pathway to Progress: Indicators of Young Child Well-Being in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA.
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card. Santa Monica Cradle to Career.
- Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Foster Care: Assessing Disproportionality and Disparities in Los Angeles. (2014). Williams Institute, et al. Wilson, B. D. M., et al.
- The Generational Future of Los Angeles: Projections to 2030 and Comparisons to Recent Decades. (2013). USC Population Dynamics Research Group. Myers, D., & Pitkin, J.
- Youth Need Data. Get Healthy San Mateo County.
- More Data Sources For Demographics
- 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal. California Health and Human Services Agency.
- California Health Interview Survey. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Surveys Public Dashboards. WestEd & California Dept. of Education.
- California Strong Start Index. First 5 Association of California & Children’s Data Network.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- Health, United States, 2019 – Data Finder. National Center for Health Statistics.
- KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- Migration Data Hub. Migration Policy Institute.
- U.S. Census Bureau
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