Key facts about the number of children

  • In 2017, there were 73.7 million children younger than 18 in the United States, accounting for 22.6 percent of the total population.
  • The number of children in the country increased from 1980 to 2010 (from 63.7 to 74.1 million children). It then declined slightly in 2011 and has since fluctuated between 73.6 and 73.7 million children. The number of children is projected to increase to 79.9 million in 2050.
  • The percentage of the total population that are children peaked in 1960 at 36 percent, and is projected to drop to 20 percent in 2050.

Trends in the number of children

The number of children under age 18 in the United States increased from 47.3 million in 1950 to 74.1 million in 2010, before declining slightly to 73.7 million in 2012. Since 2012, the number of children has remained between 73.6 and 73.7 million, and is projected to increase to 74.1 million by 2020. During the 1950s, the height of the baby boom, the number of children increased by over one-third, reaching 64.5 million in 1960. After slower growth in the 1960s, the number of children decreased during the 1970s and early 1980s; by 1990, at 64.2 million, the child population was slightly smaller than in 1960. However, growth resumed at a slower but steady rate in the mid-1980s. The number of children in the country is projected to increase slightly to 79.9 million by 2050.

As a proportion of our nation’s total population, children have accounted for a dwindling share since the early 1960s, falling from 36.0 percent in 1960 to 25.7 percent in 1990, and continuing to fall slightly through 2017. In 2010, children made up 24.0 percent of our population, a share that is expected to decline to 20.1 percent by 2050 (Appendix 1).


Other estimates

State and local estimates

International estimates

Estimates of the child and youth populations are available for many countries on the UNICEF website at http://www.unicef.org/statistics/index_countrystats.html.


Data & appendices

Data source

Data for 1950-2017 and projections for 2020-2050: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2018) America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2018. [Tables POP1 and POP2]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp.

Raw data source

U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Estimates and Projections.

https://census.gov/programs-surveys/popproj.html.

Appendices

Appendix 1. Number of Children Under Age 18 in the United States (in Millions), and Children as a Percentage of the Population: Selected Years, 1950-2017, and Projections, 2020-2050


Background

Citation

Child Trends. (2019). Number of Children. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/number-of-children