Map: How 35 Countries Compare on Child Poverty (The U.S. Is Ranked 34th)
To be clear, this data only reflects developed countries; it tells us nothing about how children in the United States or Europe compare to, for example, children in sub-Saharan Africa. But looking at how developed economies compare can help give us a rough approximation of how these countries are doing at child welfare. And UNICEF is using its own “poverty line” here; the more typical international definition is a family that lives on less than $1.25 or $2 per day. Almost no Americans qualify for this definition. Internally, the United States defines the poverty line as a family living on less than about $22,000 per year, which includes about 15 percent of Americans.
Still, 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.
But the picture looks even worse when you examine just how far below the relative poverty line these children tend to fall. The UNICEF report looks at something it calls the “child poverty gap,” which measures how far the average poor child falls below the relative poverty line. It does this by measuring the gap between the relative poverty line and the average income of poor families.