Shaefer in WaPo: Low federal spending on children in U.S. compared to other developed nations

May 18, 2018

H. Luke Shaefer is quoted in the Washington Post’s May 16 article, “The U.S. spends less on children than almost any other developed nation,” by Jeff Stein.

The article presents the results of a new NBER working paper by Diane W. Schanzenbach and Hilary W. Hoynes, which found that cuts to federal welfare programs have led to the government spending less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children. Overall, the U.S. government spends more on social programs now than it did in the 1980's, according to the researchers. But that spending is increasingly targeted at the elderly, via Social Security and Medicare. The amount spent on impoverished children, in contrast, has fallen in real terms. In 1990, the article's author writes, "the government spent about $8,700 on every child whose family took in no income from work. By 2015, accounting for inflation, it spent less than $7,000 on children from these impoverished families.” 

The new findings highlight the limitations of the Earned Income Tax Credit as a means of reducing childhood poverty. Shaefer notes that the study "is perhaps the best evidence to date that there's a group at the bottom being left out because of the way refundable tax credits are tied to work."