To answer this question, we turned to a database on fed- eral spending on children that was developed by researchers at the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution and has served as the basis for a series of children’s budget reports.2 This database tracks federal expenditures on children from 1960 through 2009 on more than 100 fed- eral direct spending and tax expenditure programs. It also includes projections through 2020, built off Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Office of Management and Bud- get (OMB), and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center projections of taxes and spending under current policies.
This year, we adapted our methodology to examine in detail the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), providing the first-ever analysis of the year-to-year impact of this legislation on federal expenditures on children. As in past reports, our analysis encompasses reductions in taxes as well as direct governmental outlays from federal programs that serve families and children. For the second year, we analyze state and local expenditures to supplement our major focus on federal expenditures. Because of data delays, the analysis of state and local expenditures relates to 2007 and therefore does not yet provide information on state expenditures after state budgets were hit by the recession; we plan to update the analysis in future reports.
After an initial discussion of methodology, our report is organized in three major sections: present, past, and future. The first and largest section focuses on current expenditures on children: federal expenditures in 2009, including the impacts of ARRA, and total (federal/state/local) expendi-
tures in 2007. Our analysis of the past traces how spending on children has compared with other major items in the federal budget since 1960, as well as historical trends within children’s spending. Our future projections extend from 2010 through 2020.
The goal of this report is to present a comprehensive portrait in trends in federal spending and tax expenditures on children, with actual data from 1960 through 2009 and projections through 2020. While this portrait contributes to our understanding of how government policies affect children, it leaves unanswered several important questions. In particular, we do not reach conclusions on the efficiency, success, or worth of a particular program or spending level. Nor does our analysis of spending trends on children dem- onstrate how much need is still unmet. For example, we do not know how the expansion in federal funding in 2009 measures up against increased needs arising from the reces- sion. More generally, we expect that the changes in funding observed between 1960 and 2009 partly reflect the many changes that have occurred in American society over the past half-century. Major trends include changes in maternal work, family size and structure, the size of the child poverty population and its demographic makeup, and changes in private-sector job benefits, including employer-provided health insurance. Measuring needs for services, the efficacy of programs in meeting needs, and how much need is un- met despite spending on children’s programs is beyond the scope of this report.