Are children in the United States more likely to live in poverty than in other developed countries? According to a new report from UNICEF released this week, almost certainly. The report found the United States ranks near the bottom of 35 of the world's richest countries, coming in at No. 34.
"More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line. … The U.S. ranks 34th of the 35 countries surveyed, above only Romania and below virtually all of Europe plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan," the Washington Post reported.
The report ranks countries using "relative child poverty" as its measure, meaning "living in a household that earns less than half of the national median," the report says.
UNICEF's report measures U.S. child poverty against developed countries — not against children in countries where children face the most devastating challenges of poverty. UNICEF uses its own "poverty line," not a typical definition of a family living on less than $1.25 or $2 per day, according to the Washington Post.
"Unicef's data is important for measuring the share of children who are substantively poorer than their national average, which has important implications for the cost of food, housing, health care and other essentials. Its research shows that children are more likely to fall below this relative poverty line in the United States than in almost any other developed country," wrote Washington Post's Max Fisher.
Sheldon Danziger, who directs the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, told the Huffington Post that "the report does a good job of summing up what many economists have believed for a long time."
"Among rich countries, the U.S. is exceptional," he told the Huffington Post. "We are exceptional in our tolerance of poverty."
"Basically, other countries do more," Danziger said. "They tend to have minimum wages that are higher than ours. The children would be covered universally by health insurance. Other countries provide more child care."
Writes Huffington Post writer Saki Knafo: "Maybe it's unfair to compare the U.S. to small, homogenous countries like Sweden and Luxembourg, but it's harder to write off Canada. Or the United Kingdom." All of those countries scored much better in the report than the U.S.