Shortchanging Future Generations
Federal Spending on Education and Other Kids’ Programs Is Getting Squeezed
Investing in kids’ healthy development should be a national priority. Spending on kids today has long-term implications for tomorrow’s workforce; economy; and educational, criminal justice, and health care systems. But overall spending on children represents a relatively small share of total federal spending, and that share is dwindling.
In 2018, overall federal spending on children younger than 19 fell from recent years to about $6,200 per child. Education and other discretionary spending categories saw the steepest declines last year, as they were squeezed by growing spending on health and retirement programs, as well as interest payments on the national debt.
To better understand how the federal government spends money on children, let’s start by looking at trends in federal spending on elementary and secondary education.
Reexamining Our Approach to Spending on Kids Can Allow Us to Prioritize Future Generations
How our government spends money, and who benefits from that spending, reflects our national priorities. Understanding our current and future investments in children can inform debates on budget, tax, and appropriations legislation and can explain the implications of difficult policy tradeoffs.
Because these projections are based on current law, they aren’t inevitable. Reexamining our federal spending decisions—for education programs and across all categories that benefit kids—can shift our focus to ensure we invest in the success of future generations.