Trends in the number of children in the United States
The number of children under age 18 in the United States grew from 47.3 million in 1950 to 74.1 million in 2010, before declining slightly to 73.6 million in 2016. During the 1950s, the heart 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 actually fell during the 1970s and early 1980s; even by 1990, at 64.2 million, the total had not quite caught up with 1960 levels. However, growth resumed in the mid-1980s, as Baby Boomers reached their peak childbearing years and there was a rise in immigration. The number of children in the country is projected to continue to increase to 79.9 million in 2050.
As a proportion of the total U.S. population, children have accounted for a dwindling share since the early 1960s, falling from 36 percent in 1960 to 26 percent in 1990, and continuing to fall slightly through 2016. This trend is driven by both declining birth rates and the overall aging of the population. In 2010, children made up 24 percent of our population, a share expected to fall to 20 percent by 2050 (Appendix 1).