States Investing the Most and Least in Children

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Maine

10. Maine
> State and local per-child spending: $9,910
> Per-child health spending: $855
> Per-child education spending: $8,831
> Median household income: $51,494

Maine spends nearly $10,000 on education and other social services per child on an annual basis — about $2,000 more than is typical nationwide. Maine is one of five states in New England to rank among the biggest spenders on children’s education, health care, and social services. New England states also tend to have relatively fewer children living in poverty, which, according to some studies, can require as much as twice the financial resources to educate. In Maine, 17.4% of children live below the poverty line, below the 20.7% of all U.S. children.

Philadelphia at night, Pennsylvania

9. Pennsylvania
> State and local per-child spending: $10,040
> Per-child education spending: $8,747
> Per-child health spending: $1,066
> Median household income: $55,702

Pennsylvania is one of just five states in which total state and local spending on child health care exceeds $1,000 a year. While the state ranks fifth highest in health expenditure per child, it ranks 11th in education spending per student. Greater investment in education has been associated with better educational outcomes, and Pennsylvania has some of the best performing students of any state. According to the NAEP, 41.2% of fourth graders and 39.1% of eighth graders are proficient in reading, each the seventh largest share nationwide.

Massachusetts

8. Massachusetts
> State and local per-child spending: $10,734
> Per-child education spending: $9,436
> Per-child health spending: $924
> Median household income: $70,628

Massachusetts spends $10,734 per child per year on a range of services. The vast majority of that spending goes towards education, and though the link between higher educational spending and better outcomes is complex, some 51% of eighth graders in Massachusetts rank as proficient in math, the largest share of any state.

State spending can only go so far in promoting child well-being. Strong family support networks are also important. In Massachusetts, 14.9% of children live in single parent households, well below the 21.0% national share.

Bristol County, Rhode Island

7. Rhode Island
> State and local per-child spending: $11,150
> Per-child education spending: $9,107
> Per-child health spending: $1,526
> Median household income: $58,073

Rhode Island spends $11,150 per child annually on a range of services, including education and health care. Most of the states investing the most in their youngest residents are relatively high-income states, and the typical Rhode Island household earns $58,073 a year, about $2,300 more than the typical American household.

Maintaining high spending levels will likely become easier in the coming years. Rhode Island’s child population is projected to decline 6% by 2030, meaning the state can maintain its high per-child spending while cutting $153 million from the budget.

Newark at night, New Jersey

6. New Jersey
> State and local per-child spending: $11,590
> Per-child education spending: $10,582
> Per-child health spending: $611
> Median household income: $72,222

Like many of the states investing the most in children, New Jersey has a relatively strong tax base. The typical household in the Garden State earns $72,222 a year, far more than the national annual median income of $55,775.

In every state, education accounts for the majority of government spending on child services. The higher overall spending in New Jersey is partially the result of a high preschool and kindergarten enrollment rate. Some 64.5% of three- and four-year olds in the state are enrolled in such early education programs, the second largest share of any state in the country.