Counting every person living in the United States “once, only once, and in the right place” is the goal of the decennial Census. Census data is then used to help determine the annual allocation of nearly $600 billion dollars in federal programs nationwide. Because a state’s share of federal dollars depends on an accurate population count, “hard to count” residents pose a significant challenge for local, state and federal officials.

Children, defined by the census Bureau as anyone under the age of 18, are often undercounted. Confusion about responsibility for filling out census forms for children in shared custody arrangements, living with grandparents, or residing in other non-traditional households are contributing factors. Nonetheless, taking an accurate count is critical since close to $3,000 per child in federal money for schools, meals, and medical expenses is apportioned using census data.

Table 1: Percent of Households with Children

 TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
United States73,403,16766.4824.9

Table 1 indicates that 66% of the 73 million plus children in the U.S. live with a married couple1, 25% with a single female2 and 8% with a single male3. Arkansas’s 705,930 children are similarly distributed. The same holds true when comparing children by age group as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Percent of Children in households by age group

 United States   Arkansas   
TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle FemaleTotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
Under 6 (%)32.132.833.330.132323730.8
6 to 11 years (%)33.833.633.534.434.634.430.136.3
12 to 17 years (%)3433.533.235.533.433.532.932.9

Table 3: Percent of Children in Households by Race, Ethnicity, and Origin

 United States   Arkansas   
TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle FemaleTotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
White (%)66.772.96550.669.178.570.847
Black or African American (%)147.814.330.217.691638.5
Native American (%)
Asian (%)
Pacific Islander (%)
Other (%)
Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race) (%)25.223.13129.112.51113.415.8
Foreign born (%)

According to Table 3 the vast majority of children in the United States and Arkansas identify as white. A disproportionate percentage of Black or African American children in America live in single female households than other ethnic groups. This is evidenced by comparing the percentages of the total children that identify as Black or African American (14%) and the ones living in single female households (30.2%). This is also true for children in Arkansas. The percentage of foreign born and Hispanic or Latino children in Arkansas is well below the national rate.

Table 4: Percent of Children in Different Households

 United States   Arkansas   
TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle FemaleTotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
Own child (%)87.79280.281.186.390.98080.1
Grandchild (%)8.168.813.
Other relatives (%)
Foster child or other unrelated child (%)
Partner present (%)7.842.216.27.93915.9

Table 4 indicates that 88% of all children in the US live with at least one of their parents. Also shown, along with the percentage living with other relatives or foster parents, is the share of children living in married households and households headed by single males and single females. A high percentage of children (13.8%) living in single female households in both Arkansas and the US live with their grandmother.

Table 5: Median Income of Households with children

 TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
United States71,39496,05742,50027,894

The median income for children living in households, as shown in Table 5, is considerably larger for the US (71,394) than for Arkansas (53,637). Median income for married couples in both Arkansas and the country is higher than single male and single female households. Households headed by single males also consistently outperform single female households. This could be linked to the fact that 40% of single male households with children also have a non-married partner in the house while the same is true for only 16% of households headed by single females.

Table 6: Percent of Children Living in Households Receiving Public Assistance

 TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
United States25.31530.850.8

Table 7: Percent of Children Living in Households with Income Below Poverty Level

 TotalMarriedSingle MaleSingle Female
United States18.48.822.342.5

Table 6 and 7 indicate that this pattern repeats among children in households who receive public assistance and/or live below the poverty level. In the United States and Arkansas about 51% of ‘single female’ households receive some form of public assistance and well over 40% are below the poverty level. By contrast only about 15% of ‘married-couple’ households rely on public assistance and a slightly higher percentage (18.4% in the US and 22.5% in Arkansas) fall below the poverty level.

Despite significant disparities in total median income earned, income earned by married and single male households and the total percentage of households with foreign born children or children of Hispanic or Latino origin, most trends involving households with children in Arkansas and the US are remarkably similar. Even a cursory examination of the available data on children makes plain the obstacles blocking an accurate total. This does not change the fact that Arkansas, along with the rest of the nation, must work proactively to insure as complete a census count of our children as possible.

1 ‘Married couple household’ refers to any household in which both the husband and wife are present. Currently the Census Bureau does not include same sex marriages under this definition.
2 ‘Single Male household’ refers to households with a male householder and no wife present, and could include married same sex couples and married couples living separately.
3 ‘Single Female household’ refers to households with a female householder and no husband present, and could include married same sex couples and married couples living separately.

Additional links:

  • Original Pew Research article: 6 demographic trends shaping the U.S. and the world in 2019
  • Arkansas State Data Center Website
  • For additional data from Arkansas be sure to check out Arkanstats
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