Kids’ Share 2016: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2015 and Future Projections

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Author(s): The Urban Institute and First Focus

  • Sara Edelstein
  • Heather Hahn
  • Julia Isaacs
  • Ellen Steele
  • C. Eugene Steuerle

Published: Sept. 20, 2016

Report Intro/Brief:
“Total federal spending on children has been fairly flat over the past four years, in real dollars. However, spending in 2015 was slightly up from 2014, with increases in children’s health and nutrition and other areas more than offsetting declines in children’s education and income security. Spending remains lower than in 2010, in part because of recovery from the recession but also because budgetary pressures have squeezed the share of resources devoted to children.

In the future, overall federal spending is projected to increase substantially, but virtually none of the additional funds will be directed toward children. Thus, the shares of the economy and of the federal budget devoted to children are scheduled to decline. Almost all the projected growth in federal spending is committed to retirement and health spending on adults, and to interest on the debt. As federal spending continues to outpace revenues, interest payments continue to rise; payments on the debt will soon outstrip federal spending on children, underlining the extent to which the federal budget is being driven by past policy decisions rather than by current assessments of how best to invest in the future. Recent trends in state and local spending on children also reflect a declining focus on children, particularly in education.

Public spending on children by federal, state, and local governments is an investment in the nation’s future — this spending supports the healthy development of children, helping them grow into healthy and productive adults. To help interested stakeholders assess the government’s investment in children, this 10th annual Kids’ Share report provides an updated analysis of federal expenditures on children from 1960 through 2015. It also updates projections of spending on children through 2026, to provide a sense of how budget priorities may unfold absent changes to current law.”