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U.S. Scores Low in Children's Well-Being

U.S. Scores Low in Children's Well-Being

by Linda Lyons

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Eighty percent of Americans in 2012 said most children in their country have the opportunity to learn and grow every day, while 66% said they are treated with dignity and respect. Although these figures might seem high, they are actually on the low end among 29 advanced economies where UNICEF studies children's well-being.



The U.S. may rank lower on these measures than some might expect, but about half as many residents in Greece, Lithuania, and Estonia believe children in their countries have daily chances to learn and grow, earning them the worst scores on the list. Further, Greeks and Estonians are among the least likely to say their children are treated with dignity and respect. The latter countries are some the least affluent in this survey of rich nations, while those nations that rank the highest on both items, including Switzerland and Luxembourg, are among the wealthiest.

The United States' relatively poor performance on these two measures reaffirms its similarly poor performance in a recent UNICEF study of children's well-being. The UNICEF study considered five dimensions of well-being -- material, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, and housing and environment -- with the U.S. ranking 26th in overall child well-being among these same 29 wealthy nations.

Views of Whether Children Are Respected Vary in U.S. by Gender, Household Income

Americans' opinions about whether children are respected vary by gender and income. Men (70%) are more likely than women (61%) to believe children in the country are treated with respect and dignity. In terms of income, those in the wealthiest quintile are more likely to say the nation's children are treated with respect and dignity (74%) than those in the poorest quintile (53%). Similar patterns in gender and income disparity hold true in many of the rich nations studied, although the gaps are not always as pronounced as those in the U.S.

Bottom Line

Given that women are still children's primary caretakers, it may be that they are more attuned than men are to the kind of emotional environment that surrounds their children on a daily basis, and therefore are more critical. Regarding the income discrepancy in most countries, including the U.S., wealthier respondents are better able to provide greater opportunities for their children, and as result, are more likely to have higher expectations about the level of respect and dignity their children receive.

In the last several decades, poor rankings the U.S. received in global educational assessments have gained much media attention, especially in the fields of math and science, so it may not be surprising that Americans are less likely than those in many other rich nations to be sanguine about children's treatment and opportunities. Still, this low-end ranking should serve as another indication of the need to ensure that all of America's children have the quality of education and opportunities to guarantee equal footing with children in other wealthy countries.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on both telephone and face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2012 in the countries listed in the article's tables. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.1 percentage points to ±4.1 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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