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Social programs that California families use every day are directly tied to the U.S. Census count, and the programs are particularly vulnerable because California has a larger share — and number — of the population most at risk of being undercounted: the youngest children of color.

“A significant number of the younger kids in our communities have been missed by the census, and the undercount rates are double for kids of color,” said Mayra Alvarez, president of the Children’s Partnership, a nonprofit focusing on policy and resources tied to children’s welfare. “The consequences are large, growing and serious.”

Census numbers determine how the federal government divvies up funding for everything from education to health care and a long list of children’s programs.

Alvarez summarized the gravity of an inaccurate count this way:

“If the census misses a child born now, the next census won’t happen until they are 10 years old. The most critical period of a child’s life is from 0-3 years old, so we are missing on a key opportunity to support their well-being and opportunities.”

By the time they are be counted in the next census, they will be out of elementary school, she warned.

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