Foreign Policy Blogs

Are Children Really Better Off In Rich Countries?

“The true measure of a nation's standing is how well it attends to its children , their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.” -UNICEF

What is really a better life for a child in the long run? Does having more money really give your child a better life? According to a UNICEF study released earlier this year, what most think is true received some heavy debated and some somewhat shocking statistics where revealed. Report Card 7, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries, was most shocking for most people when it revealed that the worst offender was Great Brittan, closely followed by the United States. The 52 page report ranked countries based on six factors; material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people's own subjective sense of well-being. The Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark where the top three countries listed in the report.

Both the UK and the US scored in the bottom ranking in 5 of the 6 factors, the UK scored in the mid ranking for Health and Safety, while the US scored in the mid ranking for Educational Wellbeing. The United States was included in the summary chart even though there was a lack of data for Subjective well-being. Some of the reports low ranking for Brittan and America are from obvious causes, like poor nutrition related to a high consumption of junk and fast foods. The comparisons of the countries can seem unjust in some ways, as the Scandinavians invest more in social welfare, than their counterparts, or the increased level of teen pregnancy in the UK, and so on. However the factors that divide the UK and US the most, are that our children seem to have weaker relationships with their parents and families, and are more involved in ‘risky behaviors’, like drug and alcohol abuse. Much of the emphasis is placed on the increased levels of single parent families, however these factors are not always a dividing line, as Sweden has a high number of single parent families, but do not have the same weak relationships. many arguments have been made that while we should look to curb our children's risky behaviors and work at stronger families, as well as relationships with others, the likely hood that many more countries on the top of the scale will begin to suffer with the same problems as the UK and the US (Suffer the Children).

The US was above 15% in regards to child poverty, which may surprise some to know that the Czech Republic ranks above us. The basis for the ranking is on, “relative income poverty: Percentage of children (0-17 years) in households with equivalent income less than 50% of the median”. The US also ranked low in regards to Material Wellbeing, which looked at situations like the number of books that is in a home, but also included issues like having their own bedroom, family owned vehicles, holidays, in addition to access to cultural diversity. Another ranking of concern is that of children's health and safety, as the US failed, in many respects, in regards to infant mortality and low birth weight, and in the death rate of those under 19 in accidents and injuries. Educational Well Being was the US's best ranking, however many should argue that it is an area of major concern.

There has been a good deal of coverage from the UK on the report and the concerns it raised about their children, but I must sadly say I did not find near as much coverage from the US on the report. The UK's fund for UNICEF site had an article on the report, while I was unable to find one on the US fund for UNICEF site. I did find the following article, Give U.S. Children Our Best, which discussed our lack of coverage compared to the UK, and how this is not our first failure to publicize our errors. Can we help our children if we cannot admit what is wrong? The answer is up for debate for many, but history only shows that by ignoring a problem it won't just go away, and the same is true when it comes to our failures as a nation to care for our children as best as we can.




Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict