The Aug. 27 Federal Page story "Last Census Missed Children Most Often" highlighted the serious undercount of children that characterized the 1990 census and that surely will trouble the 2000 census -- unless more is done to alleviate the problem. The story provided data on the undercount for the District, but more local reporting, using information available on the Census Bureau Web site, would have improved this story.

Fairfax County readers would be interested to know that almost 8,000 children in the county were missed in the 1990 census. The net undercount rate for children under age 18 was 3.7 percent. This is twice the undercount rate of the county's total population. The undercount rate for black children in Fairfax County was 6.5 percent. For Hispanic children, the undercount rate was 6.2 percent.

The census was no more successful counting children in other suburban communities. Throughout the Washington area, children were more likely to be missed than adults, and black and Hispanic children were more likely than white children to be missed. The undercount rate for children was 5.8 percent in Alexandria; 5.3 percent in Arlington County; 3.8 percent in Montgomery County; and 5.2 percent in Prince George's County.

All those who care about kids need to encourage parents, grandparents and guardians to complete the 2000 census forms for all the children living in their households. With the school year throughout the area beginning, now is an ideal time to urge teachers to include material on the census in their classes. It's time to remind students of the census's unique role in fostering America's democracy and the importance of their being counted.



Population Reference Bureau