A reader writes in to recommend this Urban Institute report on how young children fare in the federal budget. Here’s some bullets of particular interest:
— The nation’s 12.5 million infants and toddlers received 2.1 percent — $44.1 billion — of federal domestic spending in 2007, while representing 4.2 percent of the population.
— Early care and education programs, essential to many children’s successful development and costly to provide for this age group, make up a relatively small share of the expenditures on infants and toddlers. Just 7 percent of federal spending on infants and toddlers was for Early Head Start, Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and child care assistance.
— In contrast, a vast amount of spending (61 percent) on infants and toddlers is driven by Medicaid and tax expenditure programs.
I think there’s often a lack of real focus in American policy debates on what you get in exchange for spending. Early childhood investments can produce large economic benefits if the programs deliver high quality services. Under the circumstances, it makes sense to do a lot more in this regard, and to do it with real attention to quality.