Children in the United States are better off now than they were 20 years ago, finds a new report from the nonprofit Save the Children that considers factors that “rob” children of their childhood.
Yet compared to many other developed nations, the U.S. still has a long way to go.
“The U.S. is definitely making progress, but it’s a job unfinished. It still remains far behind most of its peers,” Nikki Gillette, lead researcher on the annual “Global Childhood Report” told HuffPost. “In number terms, in 2000 the U.S. was about 40 points behind most of Western Europe. Today it’s about 30 points behind.”
The report looked at eight life-changing factors to determine whether children are being given a fair shot at truly experiencing childhood: malnutrition, child labor, being out of school, teen pregnancy, homicide, being displaced by conflict, child marriage and death before age 5.
The U.S. — which was tied with China in the report’s rankings — trails behind many of its peers, including all of Western Europe, Canada, Australia and South Korea.
Singapore was the top-ranked country, according to Save the Children, an organization that provides aid to children all over the world, including the United States.
The U.S. has seen improvements across all eight “childhood-enders,” as Gillette called them, some particularly pronounced.
From 2000 to 2018, the rate of school dropouts nationwide dropped by two-thirds, with particularly significant improvements among black and Hispanic youth.
The teen birth rate also improved, down by more than 50% from two decades ago, although the United States still trails most of its peers. Research suggests that is due both to a dip in the number of teenagers having sex, as well as greater access to effective contraceptive methods.
Yet despite those gains, the United States remains at the margins of the report’s top tier of countries that are making sure children are in a position to simply be children.
The country’s homicide rate remains high (3 per 100,000 children) and decreased by only 8% in the past two decades. The U.S. ranks 114th in the world for child homicide rates.
“Children in the U.S. are almost 10 times more likely to be murdered than the best-performers,” Gillette said.
The U.S. also has not seen as significant a change in rates of child marriage as on other metrics.
But Gillette says that on the whole, she finds the report to be positive both in terms of the progress being made for children both in the U.S. and on a global scale.
“Huge progress is being made,” she said. “Even in some of the poorest countries in the world.”