UNICEF children well-being report card:US and UK with failing marks
In a series of “report cards” prepared by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, the UN agency compares the performance of OECD countries on children’s issues. The Innocenti Report Card 7 (2007) is on Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Of the 21 countries compared, European countries topped the list (Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark) of overall child well-being, whereas the United States and the United Kingdom occupied the last two places at the bottom of the table.
The report card is based on 6 dimensions, namely:
- Material well-being
- Health and safety
- Educational well-being
- Family and peer relationships
- Behavior and risks
- Subjective well-being
I won’t go much into detail about the different dimensions, but suffice it to say that some rich countries seem to lack the infrastructure to ensure children’s well-being. The US and the UK, for example, had very low scores on material well-being (poverty), health and safety, relationships, and risk behaviors but fared slightly better in the educational dimension.
The poverty trend based on the recent data and from previous report cards can be summarized as:
- Child poverty is increasing in 17 out of 24 OECD countries surveyed. Norway is the only country where child poverty is falling.
- It’s not GDP but differing government policies that account for the differences in the ranking. For example, higher government spending on family and social benefits is linked to lower poverty rates.
The report includes a lot of statistics that might be interesting to parents, educators, and policy makers. It includes data on infant mortality, teenage pregnancies, and crime against children. It doesn’t, however, include data on early childhood care and education, which is tackled in Report Card 8 (2008).