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A Child’s Day – A Report From the U. S. Census on the Life of a Child
Jacqueline Beretta

February, 2007

According to the Census Bureau Report on ‘A Child’s Day’ published in January 2007, it looks as if things are improving – a bit. The following are a sampling of some of the selected indicators about our children, what is expected of them and what they are accomplishing.

The report highlights various aspects of children’s lives that are related to their well-being, such as children’s living arrangements and their family’s characteristics, early child care experiences, daily interaction with parents, extracurricular activities, academic experience, and parents’ educational expectations. These data show that income and family structure affect various aspects of children’s everyday life. Children living in families below the poverty level, children whose parents have lower levels of educational attainment, and children in families with single parents tend to have less daily interaction with their parents, such as talking, being read to, or sharing daily meals, than their counterparts in other situations. Children whose families live below poverty and with lower levels of family income are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities and to be academically on-track than children living in families above poverty and with higher levels of family income. - US Census

  • Parental responsibility - Monitoring children and TV: Parents were more discriminating about TV viewing for their children as about 67 percent of children 3 to 5 had limits on what television shows they could watch, when, and for how long in 2003, up significantly from 54 percent in 1994.
  • Parental Responsibility - Family mealtime: Eating with a parent was less likely to occur for teenagers than children under 6. In 2003, 24 percent of children 12 to 17 ate breakfast with a parent every day in a typical week, while 58 percent ate dinner together. Among children under 6, 57 percent ate breakfast with mom or dad, and 79 percent were at the table for dinner.
  • Parental Responsibility - Love and bonding: About 72 percent of kids under 6 were praised by mom or dad three or more times per day, compared with 51 percent of children 6 to 11 years old and 37 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.
  • Parental Responsibility - Meaningful creative time: Children 1 to 2 were read to an average of 7.8 times in the previous week of the survey, while children 3 to 5 were read to an average of 6.8 times in the previous week.
  • Free time - Sports: Children 12 to 17 were more likely than children 6 to 11 to participate in sports (42 percent and 36 percent, respectively). About one-third of both groups participated in club activities.
  • Childcare: In 2003, 18 million children (38 percent) under 12 had been cared for regularly in a non-relative child care arrangement at some point in their childhood. Nearly half (47 percent) of 3- to 5-year-olds had been in non-relative child care — most likely preschool.
  • School time - Defiant children in schools: Eleven percent (2.7 million) of children 12 to 17 had been expelled or suspended from school at least once in 2003. Boys (14 percent) were more likely than girls (8 percent) to have been suspended.
  • School time - Meals: About 30 million children participated in the National School Lunch Program in 2003, including 1.6 million kids under 6, 15 million 6- to 11-year-olds and 13.4 million children 12 to 17.
  • School time - Academics: Seventy-five percent of children 12 to 17 years old enrolled in school were academically “on track” (at or above the grade level for peers their age) in 2003, up 6 percentage points since 1994, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on how kids are spending their days.
  • School time - Gifted and Talented: Nearly 1 in 4 children in the 12- to 17-year-old age group were in a special class for gifted students or did advanced work in an academic subject.

A Child’s Day: 2003 [PDF] is the third examination of children’s well-being and their daily activities based on the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Visit to learn more.

The U.S. Census - These data were collected from February through May 2003 in the Survey of Income and Program Participation. As in all surveys, these data are subject to sampling variability and other sources of error.

To learn more contact Mike Bergman at the Public Information Office
• (301) 763-3030/457-3762 (fax)
• (301) 457-1037 (TDD)
• e-mail: <>


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