It’s an oft-repeated truism: our children are our future. By that measure, however, our country could be heading for a pretty dismal time, according to a UNICEF report released earlier this month.
Called “Report Card 7: Child Poverty in Perspective,” the study by UNICEF’s Italy-based Innocenti Research Center ranked the United States and Britain at the bottom among 21 developed countries in the well-being of their children.
The study examined material conditions, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people’s own sense of their well-being.
The U.S. ranked last in health and safety, largely because of high child mortality and accidental deaths. It was next to last in family and peer relations and risk-taking behavior.
Interestingly, while scoring near the top for children having at least one employed parent, the U.S. again scored worst for “relative income poverty.”
One of the study’s researchers blamed economic inequality and poor public support for families for the abysmal rating of the world’s richest country. Jonathan Bradshaw, a professor of social policy at Britain’s York University, cited the scarcity of day care services in both Britain and the U.S., and poorer health coverage and preventive care for U.S. children.
We would add that U.S. military expenditures amount to nearly half the world’s total, and the cost of this country’s nearly four years of war in Iraq has already soared over $365 billion.
A radical reorganization of priorities is essential if our country is to build a solid future for all its people. This must start with concerted action to overcome the inequalities inflicted by racism, so glaringly illustrated a year and a half ago by Katrina. Second, a sound social support system for children and families. And finally, an end to the policy of endless war, and a massive shift of resources to human needs.