The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), released a report on the poverty and well-being of children in a total of 35 developed nations. How did the United States rank?
First? Second? Third???
The United States ranked 34th out of 35 countries in child poverty and welfare rankings, barely beating out Romania. UNICEF documents in their U.N. report “Child Well-Being In Rich Countries: A Comparative Review”, that more than one in five American children – 20% – fall below a relative poverty line. UNICEF defines this rate relatively, rather than with a fixed dollar amount, stating that this means one is living in a household making less than half of the national median.
Using this definition, the United States ranks nearly all of Europe plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Using one metric of inequality employed by the CIA - a statistical measurement known as the gini coefficient – the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal economies in the entire developed world.
Thus, even though the U.S. has six times more money than countries like Bulgaria and Romania, the relative inequality and poverty is much higher.
Below is the UNICEF report, showing relative child poverty rates. Countries marked in grey are separate because they could not provide data for all other indices:
As the UNICEF study focuses on so-called relative inequality, it naturally highlights and compares only so-called “developed” countries. It does not, however, rank the United States or Europe compare to children in the so-called “Third World.”
UNICEF employed a relative definition of poverty because as income goes up in dollars and cents, so too does cost of living. Thus, it would be disingenuous to compare a family of four making $15,000 a year in Chicago to a sub-Saharan African family of four making much less and say “Look how much better we have it in America.”
Internal to the United States, the definition of poverty is set at around $22,000 per year. This includes 15% of Americans already, without considering UNICEF’s relative measurement of poverty.
The UNICEF report also examines what they call the “child poverty gap,” showing how far below the relative poverty line children fall.
This is determined by comparing the relative poverty line and the average income of poor families. The U.S. once again comes in second-to-last. The average poor child living in a U.S. home makes 36% less than the relative poverty line. Using this scale, the U.S. beats only Italy. Below is the UNICEF chart for child poverty gaps:
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(Article by Simeon Ari; image edited by PBSpot, chart images via UNICEF)