Ensuring the health and well-being of children has never been more critical to the United States' economic and political future, a report from the Children's Hospital Association and Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health argues.
The report, The New Importance of Children in America (58 pages, PDF), found that as a result of declining birth rates and the boomer generation retiring, the nation is becoming dependent on a smaller population of consumers and workers to drive the economy and generate tax revenue. According to the report, there were twenty-four seniors for every one hundred people of working age in 2000, but that figure is expected to increase to forty-two for every one hundred people of working age by 2030. With the increase, the growing demands on Medicare and Social Security programs will put significant pressure on young workers.
To help all children develop to their full potential and maximize their earning power, programs that support children's health and well-being such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program must be maintained at current funding levels or increased, the report argues. According to the study, 40 percent of children rely on Medicaid and CHIP, while more than 22 percent of children under the age of 12 live in poverty. While access to quality education and health care during childhood not only affects a child's ability to benefit from educational opportunities and is predictive of his or her health as an adult, states with a larger share of the nation's children tend to provide lower levels of health and education spending.
"We must invest in the health of our children to maximize their capabilities and future earning power," said report author Dowell Myers, professor of policy and demography and director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the USC Price School of Public Policy. "Helping every child to lead a well-nurtured, healthy, and educated life is good for the child, but it also returns tremendous benefits to society."