The Annie E. Casey Foundation has issued a warning to policymakers and child advocates of troubling consequences for the nation’s kids with the likely undercount of about 1 million children under age 5 in the 2020 census, as the Foundation released the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, its annual look at child well-being in the United States.

The undercounting of about 1 million children under five poses a threat to their well-being and putting programs like BadgerCare, SNAP, child care, and free lunch programs in jeopardy in Wisconsin.

“If we don’t count children, we render their needs invisible and their futures uncertain,” said Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy, in a statement. “A major census undercount will result in overcrowded classrooms, shuttered Head Start programs, understaffed hospital emergency rooms and more kids without health care.”

Underfunding, poor management at the Census Bureau, and new methods of collecting data are likely to lead to an inaccurate 2020 census count.

“All people, including children, have a right to be counted and represented in our democracy,” says Ken Taylor, executive director of Kids Forward, in a statement. “An accurate census is essential to get a reliable picture of child, family, and community well-being across Wisconsin. Kids won’t count if we don’t count kids.”

Wisconsin is ranked 12th overall in child well-being, according to the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book. That relatively high ranking is masking some very high racial disparities, says Taylor.

“Policymakers could be doing a better job at creating policies and programs that provide opportunities for every child in the state—especially children of color,” Taylor said in a press release. “The gap in well-being between white children and children of color in Wisconsin is shameful. It’s time policymakers prioritize closing these gaps and target investments at programs and policies that support both parents and children of color.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of African American children live in poverty compared to 10 percent of white children in the state. In addition, 39 percent of American Indian children, 33 percent Latino children, and 22 percent of Asian American children in Wisconsin live in poverty.