Investing in Children Pays Off
Public investments in child well-being have the potential to make significant differences in children’s lives, according to a new report from the Foundation for Child Development and KIDS COUNT. Children who live in states that place a high priority on support for public education and access to health care, and that have revenue policies that support those programs, are better off than children who live in other states. In the words of the report authors, “States that spend more on children have better outcomes, even after taking into account potential confounding influences.”
A number of public policies correlated with child well-being, according to the report. The policies with the strongest connection to child well-being included:
- State and local tax rates;
- Education spending per student;
- Medicaid child eligibility as a percentage of the federal poverty level; and
- Annual TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) benefit per child.
Wisconsin ranked 14th among the states in the report’s index, which is based on child well-being in the year 2007. That puts Wisconsin two spots ahead of Illinois but nine slots behind Minnesota. The child’s well-being index is based on 25 indicators in the areas of economic well-being, health, risky behavior, educational attainment, community engagement, social relationships, and emotional/spiritual well-being.
In this two-year budget cycle, the Legislature put into place significant new tax breaks that largely benefit high-income earners and businesses, cut state spending on education by 10 percent per student, and cut the size of TANF benefits for children. Time will tell as to whether those changes will bring decreased well-being of Wisconsin children.