To the extent that it has been noticed at all, UNICEF’s report card on the wellbeing of children has been embraced by the left: it ranks the U.S. at the lower end of the spectrum.
The UNICEF document says in the introduction:
“According to the Report Card small North-European countries dominate the top half of the table, with child well-being at its highest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. There is no strong or consistent relationship between per capita GDP and child well-being. The Czech Republic, for example, achieves a higher overall rank for child well-being than several much wealthier European countries. Also no country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being.”
Before you hie yourself and your wee ones to the Czech Republic, let me give you one of the criteria for wellbeing: government spending on children. Does public day care contribute to wellbeing? The U.K. received a rank similar to ours. Charles Moore, one of England’s most astute writers, comments:
“[I]n essence the Report Card is based on the usual social democratic view that high levels of public spending on things to do with children make society better, whereas the increase in the personal wealth of the population does not. In other words, more money is good, but not if people are allowed to choose what to do with it.
“The Report Card castigates the effect of poverty, but looks at poverty almost solely in relative terms. Its key figure is “the percentage of children living in homes with equivalent incomes below 50 per cent of the national median”. This allows it to take no account of how rich a country actually is, and so America, the United Kingdom and low-tax, booming Ireland come at the bottom of its table of material wellbeing, even though that figure of 50 per cent of median income is more than three times higher in America than in Hungary.
“So what the report ends up saying is that Scandinavian and northern countries, such as Holland, are good because they spend lots of public money on childcare. Southern European countries are good, too, because, although they don’t spend enough money on childcare, they are warm-hearted and eat meals together.
“Guess who’s terrible? The English-speakers of course, the beastly, heartless Anglo-Saxons who, until now, have paid so little attention to the opinions of the Social Policy Research Unit of the University of York.
“I think the out-datedness of the material is seriously relevant here. All Northern European countries are now encountering deep problems with their welfare states, and are reining them in. All Southern European countries now have very small families, and so are facing the loneliness known for longer in the north.”
Of course, one of the criteria was not so ideological. The U.S. has more children living in single-parent households than any other country. That really is bad.