Number of Children

Publication Date:

Sep 13, 2018

Key facts about the number of children in the United States

• In 2016, there were nearly 74 million children younger than age 18 in the United States, accounting for 23 percent of the total population.
• The number of children in the country has grown since 1980, when there were 64 million children, and is projected to continue to increase to 80 million in 2050.
• The percentage of children in the total population, however, has been decreasing and is projected to fall to 20 percent in 2050, after peaking at 36 percent in 1960.

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).

 

Other estimates

State and local estimates

• State-level child population data for 2017 are available from the U.S. Census Bureau at https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2017/demo/popest/state-detail.html.
• County-level child population data for 2017 are available from the U.S. Census Bureau at https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2017/demo/popest/counties-detail.html.
• The KIDS COUNT Data Center (http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#USA/2/2/3,6,5) has:

  • 1990–2016 state estimates of the child population by age group
  • 1990–2016 state estimates of the child population by gender
  • 1990–2016 state estimates of the child population by race

• State projections for 2004–2030 (based on the 2000 census) are available at https://wonder.cdc.gov/population-projections.html.

International estimates

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

Data and appendices

Data source

Data for 1950–2016 and projections for 2020–2050: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2017) America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2017. [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.
http://www.census.gov/popest/index.html.

Appendices

Appendix 1. Number of Children Under Age 18 in the United States, and As a Percentage of the Population: Selected Years, 1950–2016, and Projections, 2020–2050

Background

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Number of Children. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/number-of-children