UNICEF Report: U.S. Ranks 34th Out of 35 In Childhood Poverty
February 15, 2014
I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists
A sobering report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that out of the top 35 developed nations in the world, the United States comes 2nd to last in childhood poverty.
While many of the Scandinavian and Western European countries (i.e. countries with a robust social safety net) have very low rates of childhood poverty, America only just narrowly beat Romania for the worst. Poverty is a reality for at least 22 percent of American children (and considerably higher by other estimates).
Before breathing a sigh of relief for at least not being last, let’s take a look at a few of the countries America didn’t manage to do better than.
Spain has been dealing with an absolute disaster of an economy and even six years removed from the global financial crisis continues to see an astonishing 25% unemployment rate. It stands to reason that many of their children would fall below the poverty line. Latvia’s entire GDP is less than that of North Dakota. Yet, they both still manage to keep more of their children out of poverty than the U.S. America continues to rebound from the recession and it’s economy is strong. Despite these positive gains in the economy, poor children are being left behind.
This might be because right-wing politicians continue to erode welfare programs in an effort to slash America’s spending. Of course, slashing social programs like food stamps and public housing assistance has the biggest impact on the people who most use it: children. It is often forgotten that children make up a majority of the people on welfare. It’s not a matter of “takers” or “welfare queens” when you are a child who happens to have poor parents. Getting a job and getting off welfare is not an option.
Unfortunately, when welfare programs die, children are the ones most affected.
Of course, as rich people like to point out, this isn’t to say that American children have it the worst in the world. The UNICEF study does not compare American children with that of, say, sub-Saharan Africa. It would not be fair to either group to make a comparison of some of the most destitute countries on the planet and one of the richest. What the study shows is that America isn’t doing a good job of helping it’s poorest citizens. It’s a systemic social problem when a country of fabulous wealth cannot or will not better the lives of every one of its citizens.
Countries that are much poorer than the U.S. have much lower rates of childhood poverty. Can that be considered anything less than a failure?