American kids are worse off than many of their Western peers

UNICEF: U.S. kids worse off than many of their Western counterparts
Posted by Caitlin Dewey and Max Fisher on April 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

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American children are on average worse off than children in Western Europe and barely better off than their counterparts in the Baltic states and the former Yugoslavia, according to a recent report from United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the welfare of children in developed countries.

The report, which compares kids in 29 Western countries, measures well-being across five metrics: material well-being, health and safety, behaviors and risks, housing and environment, as well as education. It ranks the United States in the bottom third on all five measures of well-being and particularly low on education and poverty. The United States is joined at the bottom by “emerging” European economies, while the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands come out on top. The report notes that this latter group of countries tends to spend far more per capita on social welfare programs.

The countries with the best reported child well-being tend to invest in strong social safety nets. Norway, Iceland and Sweden sink nearly 7 percent of their GDP, according to an OECD report, into education. Countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which until the ‘90s had GDPs per capita of less than $5,000, have been able to put less money into such services. Though U.S. GDP per capita was more than $48,000 in 2012, that money is not spread evenly cross the unusually large U.S. population.

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