1. Potera, Carol


A new report compares 21 measures in 30 developed countries.


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The United States can do better by its children, especially in the first six years of life, according to Doing Better for Children, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that examined 21 measures of living standards, education, health, and safety to determine how governments can best invest in programs to improve the lives of children. The United States is one of the richest of the 30 countries that belong to the OECD and spends more than the average among OECD countries on child welfare and education. Nonetheless, U.S. children fare worse than their peers in poorer nations when it comes to health, education, and poverty. The United States ranks fourth worst in infant mortality, fifth worst in child mortality, and sixth worst in the percentage of infants born at low birth weights. The rate of teen births is more than three times the OECD average and is the second worst in the field, trailing only that in Mexico. The United States also has one of the highest child poverty rates (nearly 22%), and the educational achievement of its 15-year-olds ranks seventh worst. Additionally, just 57% of U.S. children live with both parents, compared with an average 75% in other OECD countries.

Figure. When parents... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. When parents can't find work, children are affected, too. Sharina Grimes and Phillip Scardino and their three children are currently staying at a family shelter after coming to California for a job that didn't work out. Photo by Brant Ward /

The United States spends a third less than the OECD average-and less than all but three other countries-on children younger than six. The report notes that "[s]trong early foundations are essential for children to take advantage of education spending later on" and urges that more money be spent in the preschool years, to strengthen pre- and postnatal services such as home visits, and on early childhood education, to help disadvantaged children. Investments in the early years may include assigning the best teachers to high-risk students and increasing out-of-school programs. You can obtain the OECD's report (for a fee) in electronic or print formats from


Carol Potera