Knowing the number of children currently, and the number of children there are likely to be in the future, is critical to effective policy and planning efforts. The number of children affects demand for schools, health care, and other services for children and their families. Society makes substantial public and private investments in children in all areas of life, including health and safety, education and training, recreation, and social development. With projections of the total number of children, such investments can be better informed, and therefore potentially more effective.
The number of children under age 18 in the United States has grown from 47.3 million in 1950 to 74.1 million in 2010, before decreasing somewhat to 73.6 million in 2014. (Appendix 1) During the 1950s, the heart of the baby boom, the number of children increased by over a 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, and even by 1990, at 64.2 million, had not quite caught up to 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 85.9 million in 2050. (Figure 1)
As a proportion of our total national population, children have accounted for a dwindling share since the early 1960s, their share falling from 36 percent in 1960, to 26 percent in 1990, and continuing to fall slightly through 2014. This trend is driven both by declining birth rates and by the aging of our population. In 2010, children made up 24 percent of our population, a share which is expected to fall to 21 percent by 2050. (Figure 2)
Estimates of the child and youth populations are
available for many countries on the UNICEF web site.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Estimates and
|Total number of children (in millions)||47.3||64.5||69.8||63.7||64.2||72.4||72.7||72.9||73.1||73.3||73.5||73.8|
|Children as a Percentage of the Total Population||31||36||34||28||26||25.7||25.5||25.4||25.2||25.0||24.9||24.7|
|Total number of children (in millions)||74.0||74.1||74.1||74.1||73.9||73.7||73.6||73.6||76.2||80.3||82.6||85.9|
|Children as a Percentage of the Total Population||24.6||24.4||24.2||24.0||23.7||23.5||23.3||23.1||22.8||22.4||21.7||21.5|
|1Population projection estimates are based on the Census 2010 counts.Sources: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2015) America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2015, Tables POP1 and POP2. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available at: http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp|
Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s
Children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2009. Federal Interagency
Forum on Child and Family Statistics, Washington, DC. Available online at: www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/index.asp.
Child Trends Databank. (2015). Number of children. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=number-of-children
Last updated: December 2015