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Contact: Ed Walz
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Bleak Budget Outlook for Children, Urban Institute Reports

Federal Budget

Washington – An analysis released today by the nonpartisan Urban Institute projects that, though federal spending will be 40 percent higher by 2024 than in 2015, just 2 percent of those additional dollars will be invested in initiatives that benefit children. The report, Kids’ Share 2014: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2013, also shows that only 10 percent of federal funding benefits children today. It was funded by First Focus and the Annie E. Casey Foundation and written by Urban Institute researchers Heather Hahn, Julia Isaacs, Sara Edelstein, Ellen Steele, and C. Eugene Steuerle.

“Voters aren’t hopeful about the future for kids, and Congress isn’t giving them reason to be,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley.

A 2012 poll commissioned by the First Focus Campaign for Children found that 58 percent of voters were not confident that children would have better lives. The same poll, completed by the Republican opinion research firm Public Opinion Strategies, found that voters want the federal government to commit an average of 28 percent of resources to meeting children’s needs – a figure nearly triple children’s current share of the federal budget.

Kids’ Share finds that, though children’s share of the federal budget did increase slightly in 2013, this anomaly reflected reduced spending in other areas and bucks a long-term downward trend for children. The authors conclude that, unless Congress changes current policy, children’s share of the budget will continue to fall from 10 percent last year to 7.8 percent in 2024. Other key findings include:

  • Medicare and the non-children portions of Social Security and Medicaid account for 58 percent of projected increases in federal spending;
  • While health care costs and broader eligibility are projected to increase investments in children’s health over the long term, the projected end of the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2016 will have a budgetary impact big enough to drive children’s health spending down that year;
  • Interest payments on the national debt will exceed total federal investments in children by 2017;
  • Adoption assistance and other social services for children will fall as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) by an alarming 38 percent;
  • Funding for education, child hunger reduction and nutrition, and housing and aid to homeless children will also drop by 25 percent or more; and
  • The Child Tax Credit’s value will decline by 20 percent, due to inflation.

Federal policymakers are considering proposals that could slow the drop in federal investments in children and begin to turn the trend around. First Focus and other children’s advocates have urged the White House to establish a “children’s budget,” providing an official accounting of federal investments in children that can serve as a benchmark to assess the impact of legislation on children. And this week, a key U.S. Senate committee held a hearing on the future of CHIP, a bipartisan private-public partnership that provides healthcare for eight million children who would otherwise be uninsured. CHIP funding will end on October 1, 2015, unless Congress acts first.

“If we want a brighter future for kids, we need Congress to make children a priority, rather than an afterthought, in its work,” said Lesley.

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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit