The Child Olympics
It is often said a nation can be measured by how well it attends to its children—their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued and included in their families and communities. The U.S. may still win the most gold medals in the Olympics every four years, but we are losing the child Olympics every day.
By almost any measure, children born in the U.S. fare worse on average than those born in other rich countries, and many middle income countries as well. The interactive above discloses our shameful rankings in infant mortality, child poverty, preschool attendance and high school graduation rates. The results would be similar if we chose children’s mental health disorders, obesity, substance abuse, violence, teenage pregnancy, literacy and math proficiency and, woefully, deaths by child abuse and maltreatment.
Add it all up and the U.S. ranks 26th of 29 countries in the United Nation’s 2013 index of overall child well-being, presented at the beginning of The Raising of America documentary series. Children in Greece, Slovakia and Poland fare better. (See Table 15 on Page 39)
“The tragedy,” as an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report put it with respect to physical health, “is not that the U.S. is losing a contest with other countries, but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”
How can this be? How can a nation as wealthy and as strong as the U.S. put so many more of its children at risk than do other wealthy nations, even as we cheer our young people’s athletic triumphs in the Olympics?
Why does the wealthiest nation in the world have some of the worst child outcomes of any advanced economy?