Kids' Share: Analyzing Federal Expenditures on Children

This series looks comprehensively at trends in federal and state spending and tax expenditures on children—the kids’ share of public spending.

Children can’t vote and they can’t lobby for public resources, but their well-being and development affect the future economic and social health of the country. Children also can’t work their way out of poverty, so the government has a special calling to protect them. Public investments are used to educate children; promote their health, safety, and well-being; ensure their basic needs are met; and help protect their families from financial hardship. These investments come in the form of direct spending on programs that serve kids and through tax benefits that offer their families financial assistance.

Determining how government spends money, and who benefits, reveals our priorities. This series seeks to inform a national conversation about how best to invest the country's resources by examining federal and state expenditures on children in the past and projected into the future.

Featured Content

Public Spending on Children in Five Charts
How our government spends money—and who benefits—reflects our national priorities, but it’s not always clear where our tax dollars are going. In these five charts, we take a look at federal and state spending on children through programs and tax reductions. How much are we devoting to the kids’ share of public spending?

Kids’ Share 2018: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2017 and Future Projections
Public spending on children aims to support their healthy development, helping them fulfill their human potential. Our 12th edition of the annual Kids’ Share report provides an updated analysis of federal expenditures on children from 1960 to 2017 and projections through 2028. In 2017, 9 percent of the federal budget was spent on children, and over the next decade, children’s programs are projected to receive just one cent of every dollar of the projected $1.6 trillion increase in federal spending.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2018 
This appendix describes the data and methodology used to estimate federal program and tax expenditures on children in Kids’ Share 2018: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2017 and Future Projections.

How Would Spending on Children Be Affected by the Proposed 2018 Budget?
If the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget were to be fully adopted, federal spending on children would be at least 9 percent lower over the 10-year budget window compared with projections under current law. The largest proportional cuts would be to spending on education programs, which would be reduced by 15 percent. SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF would also experience substantial cuts, and some housing and social services programs would be eliminated entirely.

Spending on Children Ages 8 and Younger
To better inform a national conversation about investing public resources to support young children, this report explains how much the federal government spent on children ages 8 and younger in 2016, how those investments have changed over the past decade, and how they are projected to change over the next decade. We also compare federal spending with state and local spending.

Kids’ Share 2017: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2016 and Future Projections
Our 11th annual report looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Under current law, the children’s share of the budget is projected to drop from 9.8 to 7.5 percent over the next decade, as spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt consume a growing share of the budget.

What’s the Future of Federal Spending on Children?
This fact sheet, highlighting findings from Kids’ Share 2017, shows that federal spending on children is being squeezed by growing interest payments on the national debt and the increasing cost of health and retirement programs. 

Which Federal Spending and Tax Programs Provide the Most Support for Children?
This fact sheet, highlighting findings from Kids’ Share 2017, shows that most federal support for children doesn’t come from classic children’s programs like Head Start, but from Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and tax credits—programs more often associated with adults. Knowing which programs spend the most on children can inform debates on budget, tax, and appropriations legislation, where policymakers must make difficult trade-offs.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2017: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2016 and Future Projections and Spending on Children Ages 8 and Younger
This appendix describes the data and methodology used to estimate federal program and tax expenditures on children in Kids’ Share 2017: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2016 and Future Projections. It also describes the data and methodology used for the estimates presented in Spending on Children Ages 8 and Younger.

Unequal Playing Field? State Differences in Spending on Children in 2013
By funding public schools, health systems, and social services, state and local governments provide the resources and services that support children’s healthy development. But children in some states tend to do better than others on measures of key educational and health outcomes. We examine how much states spend on children, including education, health, income security, and social services spending. We find substantial differences in how much states spend on children and discuss the implications of these differences. We also highlight the possibility that population trends will lead to an even wider spending gap in the future.

Kids’ Share 2016: Federal Expenditures on Children through 2015 and Future Projections
This 10th annual report looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Federal spending on children has remained fairly flat over the past four years, in real dollars. Broader budgetary forces will restrict spending on children over the next 10 years, despite an overall projected growth of over $1.5 trillion in federal spending. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 percent to 8 percent of the federal budget.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2016: Federal Expenditures on Children through 2015 and Future Projections
Kids’ Share 2016, a 10th annual report, looks at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Kids’ Share 2015: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2014
This ninth annual report looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Federal spending on children has remained fairly flat, in real dollars, over the past three years. Broader budgetary forces will continue to restrict spending on children over the next 10 years, despite an overall projected growth of over $1.4 trillion in federal spending. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 percent to less than 8 percent of the federal budget.

Kids’ Share 2014: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2013
This eighth annual report looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Total federal expenditures on children were up from 2012 but below spending in 2010. Broader budgetary forces will continue to restrict spending on children over the next 10 years, despite an overall projected growth of over $1.4 trillion in federal spending. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 percent to 8 percent of the federal budget.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2014: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2013
This appendix to Kids’ Share 2014 details the methodology used in our annual comprehensive analysis of trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. It describes our selection of programs to include in our analysis, our data sources, and the methodology used to estimate the percentage of program expenditures that went to children.

Kids’ Share 2013: Federal Expenditures on Children in 2012 and Future Projections
This seventh annual report looks comprehensively at federal spending and taxes on children. Federal outlays on children fell 7 percent between 2011 and 2012, which is the greatest single-year drop since the early 1980s. While most of this decline is explained by the exhaustion of recession-related funds provided by ARRA, broader budgetary forces will continue to restrict spending on children over the next 10 years. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 percent to 8 percent of the federal budget.

How Do Public Investments in Children Vary with Age? A Kids’ Share Analysis of Expenditures in 2008 and 2011 by Age Group
Federal, state, and local government investments in children vary by age. This report examines 2011 federal spending and 2008 total government spending on children from birth to age 2 and ages 3–5, 6–11, and 12–18. We find that state and local governments provide three-quarters of total public investments in children ages 6 and older, while the federal government provides three-quarters of investments in children from birth to age 2 and about half of investments in children ages 3–5. Total public spending is highest for school-age children, but federal spending is highest for the youngest children. These findings suggest that investments at all levels of government matter for children.

Kids’ Share 2012: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2011
This sixth annual report looks comprehensively at trends over the past 50 years in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Key findings suggest that the size and composition of expenditures on children have changed considerably, but children have not been a budget priority. In 2011, federal outlays on children fell for the first time since the early 1980s, dropping from $378 billion in 2010 to $376 billion. Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 percent to 8 percent of the federal budget.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2012
Kids’ Share 2012, a sixth annual report, looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Event: Growing Up under a Foreboding Budget Cloud - The Forecast for Government Spending on Children
A distinguished panel of experts discussed what’s behind these spending patterns, what must happen to change the trends, how to distinguish between short- and long-term trade-offs, and whether childhood investments can be boosted or even maintained given other budgetary pressures.

How Targeted Are Federal Expenditures on Children? A Kids’ Share Analysis of Expenditures by Income in 2009
This report provides a first-time analysis of how the allocation of public resources for children varies by family income. Examining federal expenditures for nearly 100 federal programs in 2009, the report finds that 70 percent of all federal spending on children served the 42 percent of children who are low income—living in families with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level. While low-income children received 84 percent of outlays on children, higher-income children received 82 percent of tax reductions benefiting children.

Federal Health Expenditures on Children on the Eve of Health Reform: A Benchmark for the Future
Federal spending on children’s health increased greatly over the past 50 years, although it remained a modest 10 percent of total health spending in 2010. The largest program in the children’s health budget, Medicaid, accounted for $74 billion and 85 percent of all federal spending on children’s health in 2010. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included provisions that will increase health insurance coverage for both children and their parents. However, the magnitude of the estimated impact of the ACA on children’s coverage depends heavily on the continuation of current Medicaid and CHIP coverage for children.

Kids’ Share 2011: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2010
This fifth annual report looks comprehensively at trends over the past 50 years in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Key findings suggest that the size and composition of expenditures on children have changed considerably, but children have not been a budget priority. Federal expenditures on children in 2010 were 11 percent of the federal budget, slightly higher than in 2009. This increase is temporary, however, with the children’s share of the budget expected to shrink to less than 8 percent by the end of the next decade.

Kids’ Share 2011: Data Appendix
Kids’ Share 2011: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2010, a fifth annual report, looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Kids’ Share 2010: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2009
This fourth annual report looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Key findings suggest that historically children have not been a budget priority. In 2009, this trend continued, as children’s spending accounted for less than one-tenth of federal outlays. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides a temporary boost, children’s spending will continue to be squeezed in the next decade.

Kids’ Share 2010: Data Appendix
Kids’ Share 2010: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2009, a fourth annual report, looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Federal Expenditures on Elementary-Age Children in 2008 (Ages 6 through 11)
This report provides a first-time analysis of the nation's current spending on elementary-age children by examining 2008 federal expenditures from more than 100 federal programs on children ages 6 through 11. Findings show that six programs account for 63 percent of the expenditures on elementary-age children. Three of these are tax programs (the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the dependent exemption); the other three are child nutrition, Medicaid, and education for the disadvantaged. Education programs figure prominently in federal spending on this age group, representing 16 percent of total spending.

Public Investment in Children’s Early and Elementary Years (Birth to Age 11)
How government spends money, and who benefits, reveals our priorities. How, then, do children fare in the competition for public resources? This report looks at public investments across age groups, from birth through the elementary years. Key findings show that spending more than doubles per capita between the infant and toddler years and the elementary years. The increase is driven by growing state and local spending; the federal contribution is relatively stable across age groups. Findings also reveal that states and localities spend more money than the federal government does on children, except when it comes to the youngest children.

Federal Expenditures on Pre-Kindergarteners and Kindergarteners in 2008 (Ages 3 through 5)
This report provides a first-time analysis of the nation’s current spending on pre-kindergartners and kindergartners by examining 2008 federal expenditures from more than 100 federal programs on children ages 3 through 5. Six programs accounted for approximately two-thirds of all federal expenditures on this age group in 2008: Head Start, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and three tax programs (the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the dependent exemption). Programs that focus on the care and education of children ages 3 through 5 represent 23 percent of total federal expenditures.

Data Appendix to Federal Expenditures on Pre-Kindergarteners and Kindergarteners in 2008 & Federal Expenditures on Elementary-Age Children in 2008
Federal Expenditures on Pre-Kindergarteners and Kindergarteners in 2008, along with Federal Expenditures on Elementary-Age Children in 2008, provides first-time analyses of national investments in children ages 3 through 5 and children ages 6 through 11. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Public Expenditures on Children through 2008
Key facts are highlighted from several Urban Institute and Brookings Institution reports on public expenditures on children through 2008. Findings reveal that spending on children increased under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other stimulus spending, but not proportionately to other federal spending. As ARRA expires, spending on children is projected to decline, assuming no change in current policies. Results also show that states and localities spent more money than the federal government did on children in 2004, except when it came to the youngest children; total public investment (local, state, and federal) increases as children get older.

Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007
This report examines more than 100 programs through which the federal government spends money on children and calculates the amount spent on children under age 3. These first-time expenditure estimates provide a place to start in gauging the priority the nation places on investing in very young children and in comparing expenditure patterns to researchers’ findings about investments that work. For example, despite extensive child development research underscoring the importance of quality early care and education programs for infants and toddlers, especially those in poverty, just 7 percent of federal funding for children between birth and age 2 went toward these efforts in 2007.

Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007 Key Facts
Extensive research shows investing in very young children can help build a strong future workforce, improve children’s educational success and health, and potentially reduce some of the social ills that drain the nation’s resources and will. What investments does the United States currently make in infants and toddlers?

Data Appendix to Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007
Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007 looks comprehensively at federal spending and tax expenditures targeted toward infants and toddlers. This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of federal expenditures that went to infants and toddlers in 2007.

Kids’ Share: An Analysis of Federal Expenditures on Children through 2008
This third annual report looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Key findings suggest that historically children have not been a budget priority. In 2008, this trend continued, as children’s spending accounted for less than one-tenth of federal outlays. Absent a policy change, children’s spending will continue to be squeezed in the next decade.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share: An Analysis of Federal Expenditures on Children through 2008
This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Kids’ Share 2008: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget
This report tracks trends in federal spending on children from 1960 through 2018. The primary data source used is the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009 and past years dating back to 1960.

Data Appendix to Kids’ Share 2008
This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Kids’ Share 2008: Key Facts
This report looks comprehensively at trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Key findings suggest that historically children have not been a budget priority. In 2007, this trend continued, as children's spending did not keep pace with GDP growth. Absent a policy change, children’s spending will continue to be squeezed in the next decade.

Kids’ Share 2007
This study reports on trends in federal spending on children from 1960 to 2017, looking across over 100 major federal programs, including tax credits and exemptions.

Kids’ Share 2007: Data Appendix
This appendix details our data sources, the programs we include, and the methodology we used to estimate the percentage of all expenditures that went to children.

Federal Expenditures on Children: 1960–1997
This comprehensive examination of trends in federal expenditures on children from 1960 to 1997 served as the model for subsequent Kids’ Share reports.  It found that expenditures grew from 1.9 percent of GDP in 1960 to 2.1 percent in 1997.  Over this period, spending on children increasingly shifted from broad-based middle class relief to programs aimed more at the poor. The report classifies 66 federal programs into eight major budget categories.