Generation gap widened in social spending for elders compared to children

Per capita social welfare spending for elders was four times greater than for children in 2000, compared with only a three-fold difference in 1980. The growing gap in expenditures was due primarily to higher per capita medical expenses for older people a phenomenon called the "graying " of the federal budget.

A new study found the public spending gap between children and elders increased by twenty percent despite the fact the U.S. poverty rates among children have consistently exceeded those for the elderly, and that in absolute numbers, three times as many children live in poverty, compared to elders. Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia examined trends in social welfare spending for children and elders from 1980 to 2000 and the relationship of national economic trends to public spending patterns. The results are published in the September/October issue of Health Affairs.

"The balance of spending on elders and spending on children, is an important issue in evaluating the allocation of public resources," said Susmita Pati, M.D., a general pediatrician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and principal investigator of the study. "Though children represent an increasing proportion of the population living in poverty, the topic has received little attention."

Social welfare spending for each group as a percentage of the gross national product (GNP) remained relatively unchanged over the 20-year period hovering between 4 and 5 percent of the GNP for children, and beginning and ending the period at 6.5 percent for elders. However, the gap in per capita spending between the two groups during this time period grew nearly 20 percent from about an $11,000 difference in 1980 to a more than $13,000 difference in 2000.

The major component of social welfare spending for children has been in education, while for elders it has been in Social Security. The researchers obtained public spending data for social welfare prog

Contact: Joey Marie McCool
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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