Research and Links

Demographics (see data for this topic)

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Demographics

Learn More About This Topic

Why This Topic Is Important
Child and family demographic trends help project potential needs for education, child care, health care, and other services. Demographic projections point to an overall shortage of children relative to older populations, which will lead to workforce and taxpayer shortages in the coming decades (1, 2). This means each child is more important to the future of California and the U.S. than ever before (1). It also means that leaders need to invest in programs and policies that nurture and help all children reach their potential, particularly those facing disadvantage, and to align service systems with shifting demographics, such as increasing racial and ethnic diversity (1, 2). For example, leaders can ensure that culturally appropriate services are available for families and that communities with higher concentrations of children have adequate resources in place to support them.

Demographic factors also matter because the circumstances into which children are born and grow up—as well as larger structural forces such as economics, institutions, and policies—strongly influence wellness over the lifecourse (3). Decades of research demonstrate inequities in children's well being by race/ethnicity, parent education level, socioeconomic status, geography, and other factors (3). In addition, characteristics such as youth sexual orientation and gender identification are important, as LGBTQ+ youth are at increased risk for bullying and violence victimization, substance abuse, homelessness, and other negative outcomes (3, 4). The demographic composition and circumstances of children, youth, and families can provide critical insight into population needs.
For more information, see’s Research & Links section. Also see the following topics on Student Demographics, Family Structure, and Immigrants.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Frey, W. H. (2021). The demographic case for investing in America's children. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from:

2.  Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2021). Demographic background. In America's children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2021. Retrieved from:

3.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:

4.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2020). Understanding the well-being of LGBTQI+ populations. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:
Policy Implications
In order to plan appropriate policies and programs to meet community needs, policymakers need to understand the size and composition of the populations they serve, how that varies by geography, and how trends are changing. Health and well being are impacted profoundly by the conditions in which children are raised (1). Data on and elsewhere show persistent inequities in child and youth outcomes by demographic factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parent education level, and LGBTQ status (1). For example, children of color and low-income children generally fare worse across measures of health and well being for reasons that are avoidable (1). Policymakers have a role in addressing these disparities and ensuring that all children and families, regardless of social position or circumstance, have equitable opportunities to thrive (1).

Demographic projections suggest additional reasons to invest in children. Data show growing numbers of retiring seniors, a shrinking child population, and expected workforce and taxpayer shortages in the coming decades, making children a more important resource than ever before (2). Society's reliance on a decreasing number of children creates a new urgency to ensure today's children and families have the support they need to reach their full potential.

Policy and program options to address inequities in child well being and promote healthy, thriving children and families include:
  • Investing in the health and development of young children, especially those from low-income families; in particular, ensuring that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education (1, 3, 4)
  • Fostering stable, nurturing family relationships and home environments by ensuring that effective services are in place, including culturally appropriate parenting education, family support, and home-visiting services for families in need (1, 4)
  • Maintaining and strengthening social safety net programs (e.g., tax credits, food assistance, and public health insurance), and increasing enrollment among eligible children and families (1, 4, 5, 6)
  • Ensuring that all families have access to comprehensive health coverage and that every member receives patient centered, culturally responsive, coordinated health care within a medical home (5, 7, 8)
  • Improving the availability and quality of preconception, prenatal, and postpartum care, particularly for women of color and those who are low income (1, 7)
  • Supporting approaches to health care that go beyond treating illness to addressing social determinants of health, such as access to healthy food, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing (1, 7, 9)
  • Ensuring that all children and families have access to affordable, trauma-informed mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and other community resources (1, 4, 7, 10)
  • Promoting safe, healthy schools and communities in which all youth have supportive relationships and positive opportunities (4, 7, 10)
  • Ensuring equitable access to high-quality K-12 education and affordable postsecondary education, including adult education opportunities for parents (1, 3, 7, 11)
  • Building neighborhoods designed to promote health; as part of this, incentivizing collaboration among community development, affordable housing, and business stakeholders (9, 11)
  • Allocating community resources and distributing services in alignment with demographic trends, so that neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of children have adequate infrastructure and services to support family needs (2, 9, 11)
  • Promoting cross-sector efforts to address structural racism and to target the root causes of economic, educational, and environmental inequities (1, 7, 9, 11)
For more information, see’s Research & Links section. Also see Policy Implications on under Immigrants, Student Demographics, and Family Income and Poverty.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:

2.  Frey, W. H. (2021). The demographic case for investing in America's children. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from:

3.  Hill, L., et al. (2021). California's future: Education. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

4.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Essentials for childhood: Creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Retrieved from:

5.  Radley, D. C., et al. (2021). Achieving racial and ethnic equity in U.S. health care: A scorecard of state performance. Commonwealth Fund. Retrieved from:

6.  Danielson, C., et al. (2021). California's future: Safety net. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

7.  Trent, M., et al. (2019). The impact of racism on child and adolescent health. Pediatrics, 144(2), e20191765. Retrieved from:

8.  National Resource Center for Patient/Family-Centered Medical Home. (2020). Why is medical home important? American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from:

9.  Acevedo-Garcia, D., et al. (2020). Racial and ethnic inequities in children's neighborhoods: Evidence from the new Child Opportunity Index 2.0. Health Affairs, 39(10), 1693-1701. Retrieved from:

10.  Office of the Surgeon General. (2021). Protecting youth mental health: The U.S. Surgeon General's advisory. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

11.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). Community health and economic prosperity: Engaging businesses as stewards and stakeholders—A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
The number of children in California has declined since the mid-2000s, from more than 9.5 million in 2004 to fewer than 9 million in 2021. Population projections indicate this figure will fall below 8.5 million by 2030. The proportion of children in the state's total population also is decreasing, from an estimated 28% in 1995 to 23% in 2021, with a projected drop to 18% by 2045. In line with these trends, California's birth rate has declined in recent decades, from 76 births per 1,000 women in 1995 to 54 per 1,000 in 2021.

Population structure and dynamics vary widely at the local level. According to 2021 estimates, five Southern California counties are home to more than half of the state's child population—Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino—with nearly one in four children living in Los Angeles County alone. Counties in the Central Valley have among the highest birth rates and proportions of children within the population; e.g., the birth rate in Kings County in 2021 was 72 per 1,000 women (compared with 47 per 1,000 for Los Angeles and 39 per 1,000 for San Francisco), and the percentage of children in Kings County relative to the population overall was 31% (compared with 22% for Los Angeles and 15% for San Francisco).

In 2021, Hispanic/Latino children made up nearly half (49%) of the state's child population, up from 41% in 1995, and white children made up less than one-third (30%), down from 40% in 1995. At the county level, estimates of the proportion of Hispanic/Latino children in the total child population ranged from 13% to 87%, while the proportion of white children ranged from 10% to 77%. Statewide, 11% of California children were Asian, 5% were African American/black, 5% were multiracial, and fewer than 1% were American Indian/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Estimates of parent education levels, available from 2017-2019 surveys of public school students, indicate that more than one in three California 7th, 9th, and 11th graders had a parent or guardian who completed at least a 4-year college degree, while more than one in ten had parents who did not finish high school. Students in non-traditional programs, those with low levels of school connectedness, and Hispanic/Latino youth were more likely to have parents and guardians who did not finish high school than their peers in other groups.

Estimates of youth sexual orientation from the same surveys show that 84% of 11th graders identified as straight or heterosexual, 6% bisexual, 2% gay or lesbian, and 1% something else, while 3% were unsure about their sexual orientation. Transgender youth accounted for close to 1% of 11th graders statewide, with another 1% unsure whether they were transgender.