Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
According to a new report, America contains a greater share of poor kids than other similarly rich countries.
Growing up poor has wide-ranging negative effects. Depending on where they live, America’s poor children are less likely to have access to good public schools and earn higher wages later in life. In children, poverty is also linked to slower brain development (which further worsens academic performance) and health problems such as asthma and obesity.
America has a larger share of kids who have to deal with these negative consequences than most other countries with similar resources, according to a new report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Twenty-one percent of U.S. kids live in poor households (defined as having an income of less than half of the country’s median income). America’s share of poor children is much higher than the average (14 percent) of all OECD member nations and well above other advanced countries like Canada (15 percent), Great Britain (around 10 percent), and Australia (13 percent).
Here a chart showing where the U.S. stands with respect to other member nations of the OECD:
It’s not surprising, then, that the U.S. also scores low compared with other OECD member nations when it comes to children’s health and education. Here are two more charts from the OECD report, showing that the U.S. has a much higher share of kids that report poor health and academic opportunities than the OECD average:
A part of the problem is that the U.S. just doesn’t spend enough money trying to reduce child poverty, as The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan notes. According to a recent study she cites, the U.S. spends less than 1 percent of its GDP on pulling poor kids out of poverty—chump change compared to what other developed countries are spending.