Last week the Urban Institute released new research comparing the disparity between states when it comes to state spending on children. According to study author, Julie Isaacs, “These wide disparities in public investment raise concerns about whether children nationwide are on equal footing…Though children’s outcomes are affected by many factors, health and education outcomes tend to be better in states that spend more on children.”
Isaacs’ analysis raises questions of how spending disparities may impact the future well-being of children pointing out that child populations are projected to grow in southern and western states that spend less per child and decline in states that spend more.
The analysis also flags an issue that is important to child welfare, the potential impact of block grants. Referencing earlier research, Unequal Playing Field? State Differences in Spending on Children in 2013 points out that block grants in their most basic form, lock in current spending patterns to the detriment of children in states experiencing population growth.
The comparison does require some context. Generally, the northeast has the highest levels of spending but small population states of Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska are all spending over $12,000 per child while other small states including Arizona, Utah and Idaho are all spending less than $5000 per child. Of the larger states, New York and New Jersey where at approximately $12,000 compared to California and Texas that were closer to $7,000 per child.