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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 09/11/2009

THE LIST: How the U.S. Treats Its Children

By Valerie Strauss

A new comprehensive ranking of the well-being of children in 30 industrialized countries shows that the United States spends more public money than most but has less impressive outcomes in health, education and poverty.

The study called “Doing Better for Children” was released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It ranked the state of childhood in six dimensions--material well-being, housing and environment, education, health, risk behaviors and quality of school life.

Here are the results for the United States:

1) Material well-being: U.S. ranked 23rd.
--U.S. average family income was second highest after Luxembourg--but the U.S. child poverty rate, at 21.6 percent, is nearly double the OECD average of 12.4 percent.

2) Housing and environment: U.S. ranked 12th.
--Norway was first, followed by Australia, Sweden and Iceland.

3) Educational well-being: U.S. ranked 25th.
Finland was ranked first; Turkey last.
--The United States was fifth worst in the rate of children who lack more than 4 of the following 8 educational possessions: a desk to study, a quiet place to work, a computer for schoolwork, educational software, an Internet connection, a calculator, a dictionary and school textbooks.
--The United States ranked sixth worst in countries with gaps between good and poor school performers.

4) Quality of school life (bullying; whether students like school): U.S. ranked 14th.

5) Health and safety--U.S. ranked 24th overall.
The Slovak Republic topped the list; Turkey was at the bottom.
--The U.S. infant mortality rate is sixth (at 6.8 per 1,000) . Ahead are Japan (with 2.8 per 1,000), followed by France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada.

6) Risk behaviors (smoking, drinking, teen births): U.S. ranked 15th.

In addition:
*The United States spends one-third less annually than the OECD average on children from ages 0 to 5.
*The study concludes “that the United States should spend more for better starts in life for younger, disadvantaged children.”
*The Answer Sheet concludes that school reformers who ignore the role that poverty plays in student achievement are unlikely to succeed.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 11, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Tags:  Child well-being, U.S. children  
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America is a sadistic nation toward its children.

America forces its children to run the gauntlet of their formative years between addicts and gangsters on one side with the "tough love" threat of police and prisons with mandatory minimums of anal rape scared straight programs on the other. All in the name of the authoritarian war on drugs.

The American drug war abandons children until they are addicted and desperate. Then America throws those children into prison to be educated as professional career criminals.

Instead America could protect children from drug abuse with responsible regulated, licensed and taxed distribution of intoxicant drugs under adult supervision instead of leaving the sales and distribution to the morals and ethics of addicts, gangsters and cartels but American Jim Crow drug war fanatics 'just say no'.

the war on drugs is a forty year human rights atrocity. Generations of American children are nothing more than cannon fodder in that authoritarian war against American democracy.

Posted by: aahpat | September 11, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, you could write a better article if you actually read the report and not just the press release. Reports like this tend to cherry-pick their data somewhat capriciously, and the weighting given to different factors is often tendentious. For instance:

Because the poverty measure is relative and the US income advantage is so high, some portion of the children living in poverty in the US nonetheless have higher family incomes than some of those not in poverty in Europe.

Housing and environment: The study concludes that the US is more overcrowded than Japan or Europe, which tells you something about its credibility right there. The underlying data also purports to compare figures for "pollution" in Europe with "vandalism" in Australia and "odor" in the US.

Education: Note that the US does better than most of Europe on the measure of immigrant educational deprivation.

Health: The US has one of the best rates for physical activity. It has the best showing overall for child smoking and drinking. Its infant mortality rate is high, but there have been studies showing significant underreporting of stillbirths in European countries, which don't appear in their infant mortality rates. "Bullying" and "liking school" are likely somewhat subjective, and there's no way to know how underreporting may vary among countries.

Posted by: tomtildrum | September 11, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the U.S. does badly in these international surveys. Get used to it.
Talking about 'cherry picking' data is simply an invitation to cherry pick your own data to pump up the image of the U.S. as a rebuttal.
Snap out of the stupor and look at the rate of bankruptcies in the U.S. due to simple medical bills from illness and injury. Obama's got his hands full trying to deal with those twits in Congress who don't think our health system has a problem that can't be fixed by submerging it in the endless posturing and bowing and scraping to the insurance industry lobbyists. Not to mention the pharmaceutical company lobbyists and even those who make demands for the medical professions.
It's all shameful - we can brag that children have to be vaccinated before they go to school. IF they go to school. Children still belong to families and it is the family that struggles.
It's a shame. There are other countries that eat our lunch when it comes to education. And certainly health care (France has the best health care system in the world and they have a damned hard time paying for it, much to the glee of envious Americans!) We have a hard time doing the basics - but we do offer vaccinations by the busload, by golly! Yay, us!!!

Posted by: KathyWi | September 11, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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