Report on Federal Expenditures on Children

Posted by Urban Institute on July 30, 2018

Kids’ Share 2018: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2017 and Future Projections

Public spending on children aims to support their healthy development, helping them fulfill their human potential. As such, federal spending on children is an investment in the nation’s future. To inform policymakers, children’s advocates, and the general public about how public funds are spent on children, this 12th edition of the annual Kids’ Share report provides an updated analysis of federal expenditures on children from 1960 to 2017. It also projects federal expenditures on children through 2028 to give a sense of how budget priorities may unfold absent changes to current law.

A few highlights of the chartbook:

  • In 2017, 9 percent of the federal budget (or $375 billion of $3.9 trillion) was spent on children younger than 19.
    An additional $106 billion in tax reductions was targeted to families with children. Combining budget outlays and tax reductions, federal expenditures on children totaled $481 billion.
  • More than three-fifths of expenditures on children are from tax provisions or health programs. Medicaid is the largest source of federal support for children, followed by the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.
  • The share of federal expenditures for children that is targeted to low-income families has grown over time, reaching 61 percent in 2017.
  • Looking forward, children’s programs are projected to receive just one cent of every dollar of the projected $1.6 trillion increase in federal spending over the next decade.
  • Under current law, the children’s share of the budget is projected to drop from 9.4 percent to 6.9 percent over the next decade, as spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt consume a growing share of the budget.
  • By 2020, the federal government is projected to spend more on interest payments on the debt than on children.
  • Over the next decade, every major category of spending on children (health, education, income security, and so on) is projected to decline relative to GDP.

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