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Back-to-school predictions collide

WASHINGTON -- An imminent back-to-school season has economic prognosticators working overtime to estimate how much money Americans will spend on their children this year. The outlook is not universal.

The National Retail Federation predicts families with school-aged children will spend an average of $443.77, down 8.2 percent. America’s Research Group, which focused heavily on apparel, also predicts “much lower” spending this year: down nearly 28 percent to $296.20.

Sounding a contrary note, MasterCard said that a survey it sponsored -- conducted by Harris Interactive -- found 34 percent of parents raising students that are college age or younger expected to spend more this year than last, and one-sixth expect those costs to top $500.

Total back-to-school spending is estimated by the NRF to reach $13.4 billion this year, down from $14.79 billion last year.

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