The Atlantic

The American Government’s Declining Investment in Children

Federal spending is falling precisely as the racial diversity of the country’s youngest cohorts is rising.
Source: Ted S. Warren / AP

American politics, especially in the Donald Trump era, increasingly resembles a slow-motion civil war between the nation’s past and its future. One of the best places to track the state of battle is the federal budget.

Federal spending is steadily tilting toward the preponderantly white senior population and away from the increasingly diverse youth population. Put another way, precisely as the racial diversity of America’s youngest cohorts is rising, the level of federal investment in children is falling. That has ominous implications for both the nation’s economic competitiveness and its social stability.

This steady shift released last week. In 1960, the study reported, programs that benefited kids represented only about 3 percent of the federal budget. That poked past 5 percent in 1970 after the creation of Medicaid, Head Start, and Title I, which supports low-income schools, during the Great Society, the flurry of domestic programs passed by Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1960s. In 1990, programs for kids still represented about 5 percent of federal spending.

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