CONTACT: ACNJ, Lana Lee, (609) 651-5855 (cell) |

Newark Kids Count 2020 underscores importance of Census data to fund critical safety net services

NEWARK, N.J.—  With the 2020 Census in full swing and Brick City topping the list of hard-to-count places in the nation, Newark must overcome a unique set of challenges to ensure a complete count, according to the 2020 Newark Kids Count report. The release of the report coincides with Count All Kids Day, a national campaign to highlight the need to count all children in the Census. Children under age 5 are at highest risk of being undercounted.

“In Newark, where more than 28,000 children receive SNAP (formerly food stamps), roughly 32,000 students rely on school meals and nearly 57,000 children have health insurance through NJ FamilyCare, safety net and government programs supporting children are more critical than ever. Our future generation is counting on us to ensure that the resources, programs and services they rely on will remain and continue to flow through communities across the state,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), which produces the annual Kids Count report, a snapshot of child well-being in the state’s largest city. 

This year’s Newark Kids Count includes a special section on the national decennial count and its impact on residents.

“For decades, Census data has helped fuel Kids Count reports, driving informed policy decisions and serving as a catalyst for improving outcomes for children,” Zalkind said.

Census counts help inform funding for numerous government programs that help support communities throughout the nation. A sample of programs and corresponding federal funding New Jersey received for fiscal year 2016 includes:

  • NJ FamilyCare ($9.6 billion)
  • SNAP ($1.2 billion)
  • Section 8 Housing Vouchers ($741 million)
  • Special Education Grants ($370 million)
  • Title I Grants ($343 million)
  • National School Lunch Program ($261 million)
  • Head Start ($164 million)
  • WIC ($151 million)

Updated research for fiscal year 2017 shows that more than $45 billion dollars in federal funding are allocated to New Jersey based on Census population counts, supporting schools, child care programs, health care, nutrition assistance programs and more over the coming decade. In addition, the count determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

“There are many reasons why Newark residents might not fully complete the Census. But it is essential that we emphasize that filling out the 2020 Census is safe, easy and important. Especially critical is educating residents about the importance of counting the young children who live with them--even if they are unrelated,” said Alana Vega, ACNJ Kids Count Coordinator.

The challenge to a complete count in Newark is further compounded by the historic undercount of certain demographic groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, foreign-born individuals and renters. A recent analysis found that Newark ranks first for its concentration of African Americans and young children living in hard-to-count census tracts, and third for its concentration of Hispanics.

“We have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to shape the future of this great city and it’s more important than ever to ensure that we are seen and heard. Residents can complete the Census 2020 online by visiting They can respond easily, whether online, over the phone or by U.S. mail—all from the comfort of their own home,” said Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement Jacqueline Quiles.

In addition to highlighting the importance of the Census, the 2020 Newark Kids Count report provides 5-year trend data on how well children in the state’s largest city are faring. 

Key Newark trends include:
Family Economics. In 2019, nearly 2,200 children lived in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), more commonly referred to as welfare. The numbers have declined substantially since 2015, when roughly 6,500 children received TANF. The program provides cash assistance to needy families through a federally funded block grant given to individual states. 

The percentage of children living in low-income households (annual household earnings of $50,930 for a family of four) was more than double the state average of 29 percent in 2018. Low-income is defined as 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Despite an overall increase in median income among families with children across the state, Newark’s median earnings of roughly $39,000 remained far below the statewide median income of $103,000.

Food Insecurity. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, fed roughly 28,000 Newark children in 2019. Nearly 13,000 individuals were enrolled in WIC, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. In addition, 89 percent of Newark students who participate in school lunch also received school breakfast. Funding for all these programs are impacted by Census counts.

Health. In 2018, 7.2 percent of Newark’s children under age 19 lived without health insurance, well above the statewide average of 3.9 percent. In 2019, nearly 57,000 children received health insurance through NJ FamilyCare.

Newark’s infant mortality rate fell to 7.4 in 2017, down from 8.2 the previous year. The city has consistently maintained higher infant mortality rates than the state, which range from 4.1 to 4.8 over a 5-year period.

The most recent lead data show signs of improvement. Fewer children had elevated levels of lead in 2018 than in 2017, although the screening rate was roughly the same in both years. 

Child Care. The number of licensed child care centers remained relatively steady at 147 in 2019. However, the number of registered family child care providers, or those who care for children in their own homes, decreased dramatically by 74 percent since 2015, from 163 to 43. 

Preschool. For the 2018-19 school year, 6,759 students attended full-day public preschool in Newark, a 9 percent increase from the 2014-15 school year. Newark uses a “mixed-delivery system,” meaning young children can attend preschool through Newark Public Schools, Head Start or a qualified private child care center in their neighborhoods. 

Chronic Absenteeism. Newark preschoolers and high schoolers had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent of school days (about two days a month). In district schools, 42 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds, 33 percent of ninth graders and 50 percent of seniors missed too many school days.

Juvenile Arrests. Juvenile arrests decreased from 489 arrests in 2014 to 329 in 2018, but there was an uptick from the year prior with 302 arrests in 2017.


Kids Count is a national and state‐by‐state statistical effort to track the state of children, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.


Advocates for Children of New Jersey | 35 Halsey Street Newark , New Jersey 07102

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