Rich in poverty: America's rate of poor children is staggering
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A UNICEF report measuring child poverty in the world's 35 richest countries shows the United States with the second-worst rate, 23.1 percent, after only Romania and higher than countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Slovakia.
Many studies describe poverty in the United States, sometimes zeroing in on child poverty. This one was assembled by the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, and paid for by the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and Andorra. So it cannot be said that those behind it had an anti-U.S. bias.
Although the report's data was collected after the 2008 recession, there is no reason to believe the situation has improved. It studied basic factors in the 35 countries, including whether children had three meals a day, books in the home, a quiet place to do homework and two pairs of shoes.
Entitled "Every Child Counts," the report validates the concern that many Americans feel about the state of the nation. It warns that "intractable social and economic problems" await countries that do not address child poverty -- problems such as reduced skills and productivity, lower levels of health care and education, growing unemployment and dependence on welfare, higher judicial and social protection costs, and a loss of social cohesion.
This last malady has surfaced already in growing public anger in the United States over the wealth gap between the well-heeled top 1 percent and the rest of society, soaring CEO compensation and falling middle-class income, and the nation's out-of-kilter tax system.
The study is -- and should be -- humiliating to America's leaders and candidates, and deserves a policy response from whomever wins the election. The United States is capable of being exceptional, but this ranking shows it isn't. Instead, it is an unimaginable 34th among rich countries on child poverty.
First Published June 1, 2012 12:00 am