MICHELE NORRIS, host:
A new report from the United Nations Children's Fund says the United States and Britain are the worst countries in the industrialized world in which to be a child. UNICEF says an examination of factors such as poverty, education and a child's own estimate of his or her happiness put the U.S. and Britain at the bottom of a list of 21 economically developed nations.
NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.
ROB GIFFORD: The UNICEF report sought to assess children's well-being in 21 developed countries by measuring six factors, including health, education, family relationships and bad or risky behavior. Children were also asked whether they were happy.
In the overall table of children's well being, the Netherlands comes out on top, followed closely by the Scandinavian countries, which also have highly developed welfare systems. Right down at the bottom are the United States at number 20 and Britain at number 21. But David Parker of UNICEF says it's not that developed welfare states necessarily make happier children.
Mr. DAVID PARKER (United Nations Children's Fund): I think what we know from history in the U.S. is that it's not necessarily how the welfare is provided, but really the nature of the support. I think one of the biggest lessons from this report card is that while the government has a key role to play, it's really the entire societies that are at the center of the responsibility and the cause for improving child well being.
GIFFORD: The United States fared worst of all 21 countries in health and safety, measured by issues such as infant mortality, and accidents and injuries. The U.S. and Britain were lowest overall in the category of behavior and risks. That means American and British children are more likely to use drugs, drink alcohol and be sexually active than children elsewhere. Professor Jonathan Bradshaw from the University of York in England led research into the project and was scathing about the failures of successive British governments.
Professor JONATHAN BRADSHAW (University of York): We've failed to invest in child health. We've failed to invest in child education. We've failed to invest in childcare. We've got some very low levels of childcare provision. It's the result of neglect, which other countries haven't done. You know, they've just spent more on their children, despite the fact they're not as rich as we are.
GIFFORD: In almost all the categories, poorer nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic fared better than the United States and Great Britain.
Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.
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