The industrial countries in the world have a higher standard of living than at any time in history, but within the wealthy countries, there are still a number of children who live in poverty. The United States, which is the wealthiest country of six studied (Australia, Canada, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom, West Germany), had the highest poverty rate among children and the second highest poverty rate among families with children.
From 1970 to 1987, the poverty rate for children in the United States increased from 15 to 20%. . .
Child poverty rates vary enormously by the structure of the child's family. In every country [of the six studied], child poverty rates are at least twice as high, and usually much higher, in single-parent families than in two-parent families. . . . Perhaps the most striking figures are those that show the percentage of all children and of all poor children who are living in families with incomes below the 75% of the US poverty line. Here we find that US poor children are the worst off of children in any country [of the six studied] including Australia, with almost 10% existing at an income level at least 25% below the official US poverty standard.
. . .In the United States, black families with children are particularly economically disadvantaged relative to white (non-black and non-Hispanic) families. The poverty rates among black children are three times as high as the rates of white children. Poverty rates of Hispanic children in the United States are double those of white children as well, But the poverty rate of US white children is still 11.4%. . .higher than the poverty rate of all children in [the] other [five] countries except Australia. . .
Heterogeneity does matter; poverty rates are different for different populations and US poverty rates are high, due in part to its social and ethnic diversity. But this diversity does not matter enough to explain fully the high poverty of US children in general or even white children in particular.
. . . One of the reasons why many children in the United States are poor is that 27% of all poor families with children and 23% of single-parent families receive no public income support. . . . In every other country, at least 99% of both types of families that were defined as poor by the Us poverty line definition receive some type of income support. . . . All the countries, except the United States, have child allowances that reach at least 80% of poor children.
. . . Another reason why the United States does less well . . . is because the poverty gap is larger in the United States. . . . The larger the poverty gap, the more income is needed to remove a family from poverty. And the United States, which has the biggest gap for these families, provides the least income support per family.
. . . Every country's welfare and other tax transfer programs reflect their own cultural and social philosophies. . . . Any change in the tax and transfer policies must be done within the national context of the country's social philosophy. But international comparisons of the poverty of today's children raise long-term questions. To the extent that poverty of children is related to poverty as adults, the quality of our future work force may be affected by the present poverty of our children. And the poverty of our children today may affect our long-term competitiveness with other wealthy countries who tolerate much less child poverty than does the United States.