U.S. Child Population Continues to Grow in the U.S., While it Drops Dramatically in Puerto Rico

San Juan, June 18, 2019The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico urged policymakers and child advocates to prioritize policies that would expand opportunities for all children, noting measurable but still inadequate progress over the past three decades to ensure all children can realize their full potential. While the child population in the U.S. continues to grow, in Puerto Rico, the population of minors has dropped significantly; 43% in the last 27 years.

The 30th edition of the KIDS COUNT® 2019 — the most comprehensive annual report on child well-being in the United States — notes progress in helping children thrive since the first Data Book was published in 1990. But it finds the nation has failed to tear down barriers affecting children of color and underscores that America’s future will be brighter if all kids in all communities have the opportunity to thrive.

Along with the annual state-by-state rankings, the KIDS COUNT 2019 Data Book explores the growth in America’s child population since 1990 — the year the first Data Book was published. Among the major developments:

  • • The U.S. child population increased by 9.5 million from 64.2 million to 73.7 million between 1990 and 2017.
  • • Texas (2.5 million more kids), Florida (1.2 million) and California (1.1 million) accounted for half of the nation’s total growth.
  • • All 15 of the states where growth in the child population outpaced the national average since 1990 are in the South or West. Most states that had declines in the child population are in the Northeast and Midwest.
  • • The percentage of American children who were Latino more than doubled from 12 to 26 percent. The proportion of Asian and Pacific Islander children also doubled, from 3 to 6 percent. The percentage of white children declined from 69 to 53 percent.
  • • From 1990 to 2017, 38 states and the District of Columbia saw the percentage of children from immigrant families double; 12 have seen those percentages quadruple. More than one in four U.S. children are growing up in an immigrant family.

In Puerto Rico, nevertheless, between 1990 and 2017 the population of children dropped 43%; from 1,157,073 children in 1990 to 656,804 in 2017.

The data shows that the period of greatest decrease in Puerto Rico occurred between 2010 and 2017, with a 26.8% reduction for that seven-year period, which implies a drop in the population of children from 903,295 in 2010 to 656,796 in 2017. The 10 municipalities with the highest percentual changes in the population of minors from 2010-2017 are: Ceiba (-34.3%); Yauco (-33.0%); Loíza (-32.7%); Lares (-32.2%); Fajardo (-31.9%); Villalba (-31.5%); Guánica (-31.1%); Maricao (-31.0%); Patillas (-30.9%); and Vega Baja (-30.6%).

Local findings show that the rate of speed in the reduction of minors under 18 years of age on the island increases every year. It’s important to note that this data does not include the estimated population decrease after Hurricane Maria.

According to estimates, the U.S. will be one of the top eight countries in population growth between 2018 and 2050. Nevertheless, population projections for Puerto Rico predict that by 2050, Puerto Rico will have a population of 2 million, a number that is similar to the island’s population in the 1970s.

Amanda Rivera, general manager of the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico, said: “Minors represent the future of a country in the medium and long term. Their experiences, opportunities, and living conditions have a direct impact on the economic performance of the country. In Puerto Rico, it’s important to give priority to this topic for several reasons. The economic context, migration, and the aging of the population force us to focus on the dramatic reduction of minors between the ages of 0 and 17 as a mechanism for the social and economic development of the island, in the short and medium term. It’s essential to give priority to the quality of life of children and develop a public policy that makes Puerto Rico an ideal place to raise children. It is also imperative to create public policy to retain families on the island and reverse migration.”

Other significant local findings include:

  • • Puerto Rico continues to have the highest percentage of minors living under the poverty level, with 57.8%.
  • • The island continues to have the highest rate of families with parents without secure employment, with 56%.
  • • Despite a significant reduction in recent years (from 12.6% in 2010 to 10.5% in 2017), Puerto Rico ranks third in the percentage of low-weight births, while Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, has 11.6% in this indicator.
  • • Puerto Rico has the most significant percentage of youth disconnected from school or employment, with 12%.
  • • The island has the highest percentage of single-parent families, most of them led by women. This indicator has increased significantly, from 56% in 2010 to 62% in 2017.

Following are some of the most significant improvements found that in Puerto Rico:

  • • There is a substantial reduction in the percentage of minors between three and four years of age not enrolled in school. Puerto Rico holds one of the best positions in this indicator, placing 49 among U.S. state (#1 being the position with the worst conditions).
  • • There is a reduction in teen birth rates between ages 16 and 19 years old.
  • • There is a reduction in the percentage of minors whose parents do not have a high school diploma.
  • • Puerto Rico has one of the lowest percentages of children not covered by medical insurance, ranking #34, with 3.2%.
  • • Puerto Rico has shown a significant reduction in the mortality rate of children and youngsters, from 25.4% in 2010 to 21.4% in 2017.

National Findings from the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book:

  • • Broadly speaking, children in the United States had a better chance at thriving in 2017 than in 1990 — with improvements in 11 of the 16 KIDS COUNT index measures of child well-being — but racial and ethnic disparities persisted.
  • • Nearly one in five American kids grew up in poverty, presenting tremendous risks to child well-being. Despite economic growth and reduced unemployment, there’s been virtually no progress on child poverty since the publication of the first Data Book in 1990.
  • • 2017 was the first year since 2010 that saw an increase in the number of uninsured kids. Four million American kids didn’t have health insurance. The 5 percent uninsured rate is 62 percent better than it was three decades ago — thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and state-by-state Medicaid expansion.
  • • Low birth weight, which often portends developmental challenges, had increased three years in a row, matching the four-decade high of 8.3 percent of all live births (2006).

State Rankings in the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book:

  • • Six of the top 10 states for overall child well-being are in the Northeast. New Hampshire and Massachusetts are again in first and second place, followed by Iowa (3), Minnesota (4), New Jersey (5), Vermont (6), Utah (7), Connecticut (8), Maine (9) and Virginia (10).
  • • Mississippi (48), Louisiana (49) and New Mexico (50) are again the lowest-ranked states.
  • • States in the South and West populate the bottom of the overall rankings. These regions contain the 18 lowest-ranked states.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico call on elected officials and representatives to:

  • • Expand the programs that make and keep kids healthy. For the sake of all children, regardless of their immigration status, states should expand access to Medicaid.
  • • Provide the tools proven to help families lift themselves up economically. Federal and state earned income tax credits (EITC) and child tax credit programs mean working parents can devote more resources to meeting their children’s needs.
  • • Tear down obstacles faced by kids of color. Every child has incredible individual potential, and communities thrive when all kids thrive. African-American, Latino and Native American children remain more likely than others to encounter barriers — from living in high-poverty neighborhoods to not having health insurance — to that contribute to disparate outcomes. Our public policies must acknowledge and eliminate those obstacles.
  • • Count all kids. Ensure the 2020 census counts all children, especially those under 5 years old and from hard-to-count areas. The 2010 census missed 2.2 million such kids, and the upcoming count may miss even more if young children are not a priority. The stakes are high: 55 major federal programs, including Head Start and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, allocate more than $880 billion each year based on census data.

“Children are one quarter of our population and 100 percent of our future,” said Casey Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hamilton. “All of the 74 million kids in our increasingly diverse country have unlimited potential, and we have the data, knowledge and evidence to create the policies that will help them realize it. It’s incumbent on us to do just that.”

About KIDS COUNT® Data Book 2019

The 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book 2019 is the 30th edition of an annual study based on publicly available data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Additional information about the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book 2019 is available at www.aecf.org/databook. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at www.datacenter.kidscount.org.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

About the Youth Development Institute

The Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico (IDJ, for its Spanish initials) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting public policies, both at the federal and state level, to improve the lives and development of children and youth in Puerto Rico. Our work includes research, data gathering and dissemination, public policy recommendations, and advocacy efforts based on facts and the voices of youth and their families.