November 08 2023 | Papers

The Economic Case for Smart Investing in America’s Youth

Luke Pardue, Melissa S. Kearney

The United States spends a relatively small sum on children, both on a per capita basis and as a share of all spending. In 2019, the federal government spent an estimated $5,595 per child on programs benefiting children under 18, compared to $29,189 per elderly American on entitlement programs alone—a gap that remains wide even after state and local and private charitable giving are accounted for. These patterns of federal spending run counter, however, to patterns of social returns. Research has consistently found that public spending on young Americans yields high social returns, often resulting in increased tax revenue and lower government spending on other assistance programs in adulthood. Creating a more resilient economy requires building a healthy, productive next generation. Investing in kids—specifically with evidence-based programs targeted at youth raised in disadvantaged settings—is an effective way to achieve that goal.

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Executive Summary

Education & Workforce, Inequality, Social Welfare