UNICEF Report On Child Well-being Shows U.S. Near Bottom Of List

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School children Commerce Colorado 2012
School children during a physical education class in Commerce, Colorado.

Add child care to the list of “Lists on Which the U.S. Is Not Number One.” America is, in fact, number 26, behind both Greece and Portugal, according to the U.N.’s new report, “Child Well-Being In Rich Countries: A Comparative Review.”

Of the four countries that occupy the bottom of the list, the U.S. is by far the richest: numbers 27, 28 and 29 are the formerly Communist East European nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Romania, respectively. The report said “there does not appear to be a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being,” noting that, besides the U.S. being toward the bottom, the Czech Republic ranks higher than Austria, and Slovenia is higher than Canada.

The U.S. also ranked second from the bottom in child poverty rates. The only country among the 29 that has more children living in poverty than America is Romania. The U.S. was also near the bottom for rates of immunization against measles and polio, as well as for “child life satisfaction.”

The report noted that Canada and Australia became the first countries in the world last year to begin regular monitoring of early childhood development, a practice considered impractical and intrusive in many other countries.

The United States is No. 1 on many other lists: It spends more on the military than the next 12 nations on the list combined; it's the best in the world at imprisoning people; and it has the most obese people, the highest divorce rate, and the highest rate of both illicit and prescription drug use.

UNICEF said in a statement that the report indicates that child poverty in these countries “is not inevitable but is policy-susceptible,” and certain countries are doing an obviously better job than others.

“Governments need to guide policies in a way that will safeguard the long-term futures of their children and economies,” said Gordon Alexander, director of UNICEF’s Office of Research. “This has never been more urgent than in today’s climate.”

Eleven countries of comparable wealth were not included on the list because of a  lack of data. Those countries were Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Cyprus, Israel, Japan, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey and South Korea.

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