Children's Programs Face Declining Share of Federal Spending, Report Finds

Funding for federal programs that help children is declining, a new study from the Urban Institute and New America Foundation finds.

The report, Kids' Share 2008: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget (40 pages, PDF), found that if current spending and revenue policies remain unchanged, funding for children's programs will account for 13.8 percent of the domestic federal budget — which excludes defense, non-defense homeland security, and international affairs — by 2018, down from 16.2 percent in 2007. While overall domestic spending is projected to increase by $771 billion over the next decade, programs for children will receive only 7.1 percent, or $55 billion, of that increase under current law.

Sponsored in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the second annual Kids' Share report classifies more than a hundred federal programs that spend money on children in areas such as income security, nutrition, housing, tax credits, health, social services, education, and training. According to the report, from fiscal year 2006 to 2007 the children's budget inched up 0.7 percent, while the non-child portions of the three major entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — rose 5.2 percent.

By comparison, the first Kids' Share report found that between 1960 and 2007 federal spending on children rose from 1.9 percent to 2.6 percent of GDP, while spending on the non-child portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid nearly quadrupled from 2.0 percent to 7.9 percent. Over that same perod, real federal spending per child rose from $819 to $4,680, while spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid jumped from $3,057 per senior to $20,530.

"The squeeze between growing entitlements and existing taxes — a squeeze affecting children's programs and many traditional government functions — is not waiting for some future date; it is taking place now," said report co-author Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. "By action and inaction, both political parties bear responsibility for choosing this path and for allowing other priorities to take precedence."

"Kids to Receive Declining Share of Federal Spending." Urban Institute Press Release 06/24/2008.