Monday, March 07, 2011

Cutting kids?

Fareed Zakaria produces a grossly misleading statistic:
As countries get rich, you might assume that they focus greater attention on their children. Not in the United States. The federal government's expenditures on children have shrunk as a share of the budget over the past 30 years. In 1960, about 20 percent of the federal budget went to programs dedicated to the health, development and education of Americans under the age of 18. Today it's 10 percent and falling.
In 1960 the federal government spent just over $92 billion ($659 billion in 2009 dollars). 20 percent of that is $18.4 billion ($132 billion). The fiscal year 2010 budget spent $3.55 trillion, 10 percent of which is $355 billion. In 1960 the US population was 179 million, and today stands at 307 million. So while the US population has increased by 71.6 percent since 1960, the amount of money being spent on children has increased by 169 percent.

In other words, yes, it does stand to reason that countries spend more money on children as they become richer, and in fact this holds true. Well, you know what they say...

Update: Considering that baby boomers were still children in 1960 and the US population has aged since this time, it is likely that children comprised a greater percentage of the population then than now (although I can't immediately find the data on this). Thus, it stands to reason that not only is vastly more money being spent on children as a whole now, but the amount per child is even greater than what my stats show and further undermine Zakaria's argument.

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