According to a new report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a child poverty rate higher than the 23 percent rate in the U.S.:
[The rate is] based on the definition of relative poverty used by the OECD. Under this definition, a child is deemed to be living in relative poverty if he or she is growing up in a household where disposable income, when adjusted for family size and composition, is less than 50% of the median disposable household income for the country concerned. By this standard, more than 15% of the 200 million children in the 35 countries listed in Figure 1b are seen to be living in relative poverty.
The top five positions in the league table are occupied by Iceland, Finland, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Norway (with Slovenia and Denmark close behind). All of these countries have relative child poverty rates below 7%. Another eight countries including two of the largest — Germany and France– have rates between 7% and 10%. A third group, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, post rates of between 10% and 15%. A further six, including populous Italy and Spain, show rates of between 15% and 20%. In only two countries are more than 20% of children living in relative poverty — Romania and the United States.
The Great Recession has, of course, exacerbated child poverty. According to a recent report, 8.3 million children in the U.S. have been affected by the foreclosure crisis that arose after the housing bubble burst.
However, the social safety net has helped alleviate some of this suffering. For instance, food stamps reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty by half last year.