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The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries


  • Peter Adamson


This Report Card presents a first overview of inequalities in child well-being for 24 of the world’s richest countries. Three dimensions of inequality are examined: material well-being, education, and health. In each case and for each country, the question asked is ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ The report argues that children deserve the best possible start, that early experience can cast a long shadow, and that children are not to be held responsible for the circumstances into which they are born. In this sense the metric used - the degree of bottom-end inequality in child well-being - is a measure of the progress being made towards a fairer society. Bringing in data from the majority of OECD countries, the report attempts to show which of them are allowing children to fall behind by more than is necessary in education, health and material well-being (using the best performing countries as a minimum standard for what can be achieved). In drawing attention to the depth of disparities revealed, and in summarizing what is known about the consequences, it argues that ‘falling behind’ is a critical issue not only for millions of individual children today but for the economic and social future of their nations tomorrow.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Adamson, 2010. "The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world's rich countries," Papers inreca619, Innocenti Report Card.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucf:inreca:inreca619

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yekaterina Chzhen & Zlata Bruckauf & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2017. "Is University Education More Important for a Boy than for a Girl? Social approval of unequal educational opportunity across 21 countries," Papers inores895, Innocenti Research Briefs.
    2. Zlata Bruckauf & Nóirín Hayes & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2017. "Quality of Childcare and Pre-Primary Education: How do we measure it?," Papers inores897, Innocenti Research Briefs.
    3. Yekaterina Chzhen & Zlata Bruckauf & Emilia Toczydlowska & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2017. "Sustainable Development Goal 1.2: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union," Papers inwopa894, Innocenti Working Papers.
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    More about this item


    child poverty; comparative analysis; education; health; housing conditions; industrialized countries; nutrition; policy and planning; poverty; social conditions; social indicators;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General

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