Population Characteristics

The increasing diversity of the United States population is reflected in the sociodemographic characteristics of children and their families. The percentage of children who are Hispanic has more than doubled since 1980, while the percentage who are non-Hispanic White has declined. The percentage of children who are Black has remained relatively stable. This reflects the changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of the population as a whole.

At the national, state, and local levels, policymakers use population information to address health-related issues that affect mothers, children, and families. By carefully analyzing and comparing available data, public health professionals can often identify high-risk populations that could benefit from specific interventions.

This section presents data on selected population characteristics that can influence maternal and child health program development and evaluation. Included are data on the age and racial and ethnic distribution of the U.S. population, as well as data on children and their families, covering topics such as poverty, child care arrangements, education, and geographic location.

This section also presents the latest estimate of the proportion of U.S. children with special health care needs. Children are considered to have a special health care need if, in addition to a chronic medical, behavioral, or developmental condition that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or longer, they experience either service-related or functional consequences, including the need for or use of prescription medications and/or specialized therapies.

Key Findings