Research Report Kids' Share 2020: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2019 and Future Projections
Heather Hahn, Cary Lou, Julia B. Isaacs, Eleanor Lauderback, Hannah Sumiko Daly, C. Eugene Steuerle
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Public spending on children is an investment in the nation’s future, as it aims to support their healthy development and human potential. To inform policymakers, children’s advocates, and the general public about how public funds are spent on children, this 14th edition of the annual Kids’ Share report provides an updated analysis of federal expenditures on children from 1960 to 2019. This year’s Kids’ Share report also provides a baseline view of public expenditures before the COVID-19 pandemic. Our projections of federal expenditures on children through 2030 give a sense of how budget priorities were scheduled to unfold under the law before the pandemic and related economic and legislative responses. View a single-page formatted version of the report with text and charts side-by-side here.

A few highlights of the chartbook:

  • Federal expenditures per child were slightly higher in 2019 than in recent years, after adjusting for inflation. In 2019, the federal government spent about $6,700 per child younger than 19. The increase primarily reflects some delayed effects of the temporary expansion of the child tax credit enacted in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017.
  • As a share of federal spending, the $408 billion invested in children in 2019 remained at roughly 9 percent of all federal outlays for the second year in a row.
  • As a share of the economy, federal investments in children represented 1.9 percent of GDP, similar to last year but lower than other years in the past decade.
  • The child tax credit was the largest source of federal support for children in 2019, surpassing Medicaid, which had been the largest program for many years. More than three-fifths of federal expenditures on children are from tax provisions or health spending.
  • The share of federal expenditures on children targeted to families with low incomes has grown over time, reaching 57 percent in 2019.
  • Under prepandemic law, children’s programs are projected to receive only two cents of every dollar of the projected $1.6 trillion increase in federal spending over the next decade.
  • Under prepandemic law, children’s share of the federal budget is projected to drop from 9.2 percent to 7.3 percent over the next decade, as built-in spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt consume a growing share of the budget.
  • The federal government spends nearly as much on interest payments on the debt as on children.
  • Over the next decade, all categories of spending on children except health are projected to decline relative to GDP. Most categories also see declines or remain at similar levels in real dollars. 
Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Families Social safety net Taxes and budgets Children and youth
Tags Kids in context Children's budget Spending on children
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
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