How Much Does the Federal Government Spend to Promote Economic Mobility and for Whom?

How Much Does the Federal Government Spend to Promote Economic Mobility and for Whom?

Abstract

This report tallies all federal spending and tax subsidies aimed at promoting the economic mobility of Americans for 1980, 2006, and 2012. This first effort at defining a mobility budget--$746 billion in 2006--reaches two major conclusions: (1) poor and lower-income households owe little or no tax and so are excluded from the bulk of economic mobility programs, which are often delivered in the form of tax subsidies; and (2) while these households do benefit from many other federal programs, those programs generally are not aimed at promoting mobility--and sometimes even discourage it. Furthermore, under current law, mobility enhancing programs targeted to toward lower income households would decline as a share of GDP from 2006 to 2012, while those targeted to the better off would increase over the same period.

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