A new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report found that the US has the second highest child poverty rate among the richest countries, with 23.1 percent of children in America living in relative poverty. The US was second only to Romania, which has a child poverty rate of 25.5 percent. The child poverty rate remains a key indicator of how well countries are protecting their most vulnerable citizens as well as the well-being of society overall, and from what this report reveals, the US could be doing a much better job. In fact, when compared to other countries, the US spends less than 1.5% GDP on cash transfers, tax breaks and services for children and families.
While the report acknowledges that there is almost no internationally comparable data with respect to what is happening to child poverty as a result of the economic downturn of the last three years; it is evident that services for families are under strain as the number of those in need continues to increase while the availability of services are depleting. To go one step further, the report suggests that the worst is yet to come. Therefore, the data highlighted in the report makes the economic case that the best use of funding would be made by investing in preventing poverty, rather than paying billions in services to treat the range of problems associated with high levels of child poverty that are not addressed early on.
Overall the data presented in the report, which can and should inform policy, prove that some countries are doing a much better job than others at protecting their children from poverty. The report concludes with a strong challenge to civilized societies to ensure that children are the first to be protected, rather than the last to be considered. It also suggests that ‘a society that fails to support parents in the task of protecting the years of childhood is a society that is failing its most vulnerable.’