Feds spend $7 on elderly for every $1 on kids

February 15, 2013

From the Urban Institute's report on on federal expenditures on children through 2011:

1. "In recent years, children’s spending has represented about 10 percent of total federal outlays, a considerable increase from its share in 1960, or even 1990... The 10 percent spent on children compares to 41 percent spent on the elderly and disabled portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; 20 percent on defense; 6 percent on interest payments on the debt; and 23 percent on all other government functions (e.g., agriculture, commerce, the environment, transportation, veterans’ benefits)."

2. "Over the next 10 years, federal outlays on children will fall as a percentage of the budget (from 10 to 8 percent); federal spending is projected to increase by nearly $1 trillion, but children’s spending remains essentially unchanged in absolute dollars."

3. "Ten programs and tax provisions account for three-quarters (75 percent) of the $445 billion in expenditures on children. Medicaid alone spent an estimated $74 billion on children in 2011, more than any other program. Children account for about one-quarter of all Medicaid spending. After Medicaid, the largest sources of expenditures on children are the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC, $52 billion), the Child Tax Credit ($46 billion), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps, $37 billion), and the dependent exemption ($35 billion)."

4. "The largest drops expected over the next decade are in education, which drops sharply in 2012 as ARRA funds are exhausted, and then is further reduced in 2013 due to the discretionary caps under the Budget Control Act. Early care and education, social services, housing, and training also are affected by the caps on and cuts to discretionary spending."

5. "Health spending on children is the one area with growth over the next decade, due to continued high growth in economy-wide health care costs, along with expanded coverage under Medicaid and the introduction of the health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act."

6. "In fact, under current policies, the federal government is projected to spend more on interest payments than on children, beginning in 2017."

7. "State and local spending on public schools dwarfs all other forms of spending on children, averaging $7,154 per child, out of a total public investment of $11,822 per child in 2008 ."

8. Most of the spending for children happens at the state and local level, while most of the spending for the elderly happens at the federal level.

9. "Looking solely at the federal budget, an elderly person receives close to seven federal dollars for every dollar received by a child."

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Sarah Kliff | February 15, 2013