Is America shortchanging kids to help seniors?

Grandma and granddaughters
Grandmother Sally Fine watches a band perform with her granddaughters Tatum Fine (L) and Kate Palmer during the annual Grandparent's Day at the Museum of Modern Art June 26, 2007 in New York City.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

It is undeniable that entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security are consuming an ever-larger part of the federal budget. In an era of budget cuts, some say the money comes at the cost of spending on kids' programs.

The Urban Institute reported earlier this year that for every $7 spent by the federal government on Americans at the oldest end of the spectrum, just $1 is spent on Americans on the youngest. This is happening at a time when research shows how vital those early years are in childhood development.

"Cutting back on the young is like eating the seed corn: satisfying a momentary need but leaving no way to grow a prosperous future," wrote financial columnist Anna Bernasek in Newsweek.

But looking at federal spending doesn't tell the whole story, reports NPR:

It's a little misleading, though, to look only at federal dollars. Washington may spend more on seniors, but that's partly because many programs that aid the young are primarily funded at the state and local level.

"The federal government is in charge of the old people," says Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. "States do 90 percent of school funding."

On The Daily Circuit, we'll take a look at the spending numbers and how America chooses to divide the funding.

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