December 10, 2019
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THE URBAN INSTITUTE               News Release



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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 2009 -- Despite extensive research documenting the benefits of investing in young children, infants and toddlers are underrepresented in the federal budget, a new study from the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution found.


The nation’s 12.5 million children under age 3 are 4.2 percent of the population, but they received just 2.1 percent -- $44.1 billion -- of federal domestic spending in 2007. Domestic outlays, which exclude defense, homeland security, and international affairs, totaled $2.1 trillion.


Besides the $44.1 billion, another $13.0 billion in tax expenditures was spent on infants and toddlers. Together, these allotments represent the majority of public investment in this age group, since states spend little on them.  


Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007” scans more than 100 programs across eight domains: health (e.g., Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program); nutrition (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps); housing (e.g., Section 8 low-income housing assistance); income security (e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families); social services (e.g., Head Start); education and training (e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part C); refundable tax credits (e.g., refundable portions of the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit); and reductions in taxes (e.g., the child and dependent care credit).


The report was written by Jennifer Macomber, Tracy Vericker, Adam Kent, and Paul Johnson of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution’s Julia Isaacs. It was funded by the Irving Harris Foundation and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.


“This study establishes baseline figures for what is being spent on our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable residents,” said Macomber. “It offers legislators, executive branch officials, and concerned citizens a starting point for comparing federal expenditure patterns with researchers’ findings about where taxpayer dollars will yield the greatest return.”


Other Findings

Early care and education programs, essential to many children’s successful development and costly to provide for this age group, composed a relatively small share of the expenditures on infants and toddlers: just 7 percent was used for Early Head Start, Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and child care assistance. 


Driven largely by Medicaid, health and nutrition constituted the biggest share -- 38 percent -- compared with 25 percent for all children. Twenty-one percent of spending on the youngest children came via Medicaid, compared with 12 percent for all children.


Seventy-one percent of federal spending affecting children between birth and age 2 came through six programs. Only one, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, emphasizes serving infants and toddlers. The other five programs were Medicaid, food stamps, the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, and the dependent exemption. 


Most expenditures (58 percent) on infants and toddlers were in-kind benefits, such as health services, or vouchers, such as food stamps. Twenty-three percent were reductions in taxes, such as the dependent exemption. The two child-related tax credits that have refundable portions -- the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit -- amounted to 17 percent of spending on infants and toddlers. Programs providing cash payments made up 2 percent.


The $44.1 billion in spending on infants and toddlers was larger than the $31.8 billion for natural resources and the environment, comparable to spending on ground transportation ($46.8 billion), but less than a twelfth of the spending on Social Security ($586.2 billion).


“Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007” builds on the methods and estimates developed for prior work on children’s budgets by the Urban Institute, such as “Kids’ Share 2008: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget.”  


“Federal Expenditures on Infants and Toddlers in 2007” is available at


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The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation. It provides information, analyses, and perspectives to public and private decisionmakers to help them address these problems and strives to deepen citizens’ understanding of the issues and tradeoffs that policymakers face.


The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions. For more than 90 years, Brookings has analyzed current and emerging issues and produced new ideas that matter -- for the nation and the world.


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