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Global child poverty and well-being

Global child poverty and well-being: Measurement, concepts, policy and action

Alberto Minujin
Shailen Nandy
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  • Book Info
    Global child poverty and well-being
    Book Description:

    Child poverty is a central and present part of global life, with hundreds of millions of children around the world enduring tremendous suffering and deprivation of their most basic needs. Despite its long history, research on poverty and development has only relatively recently examined the issue of child poverty as a distinct topic of concern. This book brings together theoretical, methodological and policy-relevant contributions by leading researchers on international child poverty. With a preface from Sir Richard Jolly, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, it examines how child poverty and well-being are now conceptualized, defined and measured, and presents regional and national level portraits of child poverty around the world, in rich, middle income and poor countries. The book's ultimate objective is to promote and influence policy, action and the research agenda to address one of the world's great ongoing tragedies: child poverty, marginalization and inequality.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0114-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
    Alberto Minujin and Shailen Nandy
  2. Foreword
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
    Richard Jolly

    For over more than 60 years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has led the way with international action for children. But UNICEF has been at its best and had most influence when the action has been combined with ideas and thinking about how best countries and the international community can give more attention to children in both national and international policies. It is the action that has usually attracted most attention and support – because of its obvious practical appeal. Indeed, UNICEF has built its reputation on ‘making a difference’, not just talking about what needs to be done. Nonetheless,...

  3. Part 1

    • ONE Introduction
      (pp. 3-18)
      Shailen Nandy and Alberto Minujin

      In December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted, for the first time, an international definition of child poverty. It recognised that:

      … children living in poverty are deprived of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection, and that while a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human being, it is most threatening and harmful to children, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of society. (UNGA, 2006, para 460)

      The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the agency...

    • TWO Child rights, child survival and child poverty: the debate
      (pp. 19-38)
      Simon Pemberton, David Gordon and Shailen Nandy

      It is estimated that over eight million children under the age of five in developing countries die each year, mainly from preventable causes (Black et al, 2010). In approximately half of these deaths, malnutrition is a contributory cause (UNICEF, 2002). However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has argued that seven out of ten childhood deaths in such countries can be attributed to just five main causes or their combination. In addition to malnutrition (WHO, 2002), these causes are pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and malaria. Many of these deaths could be prevented using readily available medical technologies at comparatively little cost (Jones...

    • THREE Equity begins with children
      (pp. 39-54)
      Jan Vandemoortele

      More than 100 years ago, Henry George – a colourful economist who ran for mayor of New York and whose brainchild is the famous board game Monopoly – noted that ‘the association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times’ (George, 1882). And so it remains today.

      The recent stretch of globalisation has produced unprecedented prosperity and spectacular technological progress – not unlike that in the days of Henry George in the late 19th century. Yet, too much of the progress is bypassing the people who are most in need of it; so much so that an unacceptable high number...

  4. Part 2

    • FOUR Measuring child poverty and deprivation
      (pp. 57-102)
      David Gordon and Shailen Nandy

      Ten years ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) asked the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, UK, to produce a scientifically valid and reliable method for measuring the extent and depth of child poverty in all the developing regions of the world. The methodology had to be socially and culturally appropriate, age and gender-specific and allow for the fact that children’s needs change as they grow and develop. The methodology also needed to be consistent with agreed international definitions of poverty used for policy-making purposes and within the framework provided by international human rights...

    • FIVE Beyond headcount: measures that reflect the breadth and components of child poverty
      (pp. 103-134)
      Sabina Alkire and José Manuel Roche

      Measures of child poverty undoubtedly influence policies to reduce child poverty. The accuracy, precision and informational content of child poverty measures create value insofar as they enable policy makers, parents and other groups to eliminate the suffering and deprivation of children. Hence debates on measures of child poverty are motivated by a shared objective: creating tools that enable children to enjoy a childhood free from fear and want. This chapter presents a new approach to child poverty measurement, which learns from, and improves on, previous methods.

      The Alkire-Foster (2007, 2011) method presented in this chapter seeks to answer the question...

    • SIX Defining child poverty in South Africa using the socially perceived necessities approach
      (pp. 135-154)
      Helen Barnes and Gemma Wright

      Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the South African government has committed itself to protecting child rights and reducing child poverty. For example, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa has a specific section on child rights, the government ratified both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1995 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 1999, and new legislation, the Children’s Act 2005, gives effect to some of the constitutional rights of children. Social assistance remains the main arm of the government’s poverty alleviation programme, and the...

    • SEVEN Child well-being in the US: proposal for the development of a ‘Tots Index’ using the human development conceptual framework
      (pp. 155-178)
      Sarah Burd-Sharps, Patrick Guyer, Ted Lechterman and Kristen Lewis

      US society and investments in both the public and private sectors show a concern for young children and their well-being, a concern that has resulted in some very hopeful advances. In health, infant death rates have been declining steadily since the 1940s (Kung et al, 2008), smoking during pregnancy is increasingly rare, and vaccination rates have been rising. In terms of education, there has been a significant increase in both preschool and nursery rates, from nearly half of children in fullday nursery in 1995 to two thirds in 2006 (Land, 2008). In addition to these important signs of progress, there...

    • EIGHT A snapshot of child well-being in transition countries: exploring new methods of monitoring child well-being
      (pp. 179-206)
      Petra Hoelscher, Dominic Richardson and Jonathan Bradshaw

      Two decades of transition have seen growing diversity across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, both in terms of economic and institutional structures and social developments. Living conditions have changed rapidly during this period, bringing both new opportunities and at the same time greater vulnerabilities for families and children. Economic recovery during the past decade has been hit again by the global economic crisis – many countries in the region belong to the most severely affected countries in the world. While most governments have tried to protect social spending, measures to mitigate the impacts of the crisis are only as good as...

    • NINE Enhancing the fight against child poverty in the European Union: a benchmarking exercise
      (pp. 207-244)
      Isabelle Maquet-Engsted

      Out of the 17% of Europeans at risk of poverty, 20 million are children. In most countries of the European Union (EU) children are at greater risk of poverty than adults, and this situation has not improved since 2000. In March 2006, member states were asked by EU heads of state and governments ‘to take necessary measures to rapidly and significantly reduce child poverty, giving all children equal opportunities, regardless of their social background’ (European Council presidency conclusions March 2006). In response, member states chose tackling child poverty as the focus theme for 2007 in the context of the EU...

    • TEN Assessing child well-being in developing countries: making policies work for children
      (pp. 245-260)
      Shirley Gatenio Gabel and Sheila B. Kamerman

      Child development and child well-being are major concerns in many countries, both developed and developing, and are the subject of ongoing concern at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as well as the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These concerns have led to a search for policies affecting child and family well-being designed to reduce or alleviate child poverty, deprivation, vulnerability and the risk factors that can trigger a lifelong cycle of disadvantage.

      The lack of systematic and comparative data on policies affecting children in developing countries and related outcome measures has repeatedly...

  5. Part 3

    • ELEVEN Multidimensional child poverty in Tanzania: analysis of situation, changes and sensitivity of thresholds
      (pp. 263-286)
      Alberto Minujin and Enrique Delamonica

      Traditionally, since before independence, Tanzania has been an egalitarian society.² However, economic stagnation, the debt crisis of the 1980s and the ensuing adjustment policies period have proved detrimental to equity. The economic recovery enjoyed by Tanzania in the last few years has not resulted in a significant reduction of income poverty nationwide.³

      While there has been progress in some social indicators (for example, child malnutrition, education, under-five mortality), progress has been unconscionably slow for many dimensions of well-being. These observations call for a deeper analysis of the characteristics of poverty and disparities, moving beyond income poverty and income distribution. Thus,...

    • TWELVE A multidimensional profile of child poverty in Congo Brazzaville
      (pp. 287-306)
      Geranda Notten, Chris de Neubourg, Bethuel Makosso and Beltran Mpoue

      The Republic of Congo is a central African oil exporting country with a population of 3.5 million inhabitants, of which 46% are children. Armed conflict in the 1990s caused a strong deterioration of social and economic living conditions – the Human Development Index plunged from 0.54 in 1985 to 0.45 in 1999 (UNDP, 2005). Since peace agreements in 2002, conditions have gradually improved, but the economy and government revenues of this lower middle-income country are heavily reliant on oil exports, and it is a net importer of goods including basic foodstuffs (IMF, 2007). Unemployment is high and one in every two...

    • THIRTEEN Multidimensional child poverty in Vietnam
      (pp. 307-324)
      Keetie Roelen and Franziska Gassmann

      The development and use of child poverty approaches has received increasing attention over the last decade resulting from the widespread acknowledgement that children deserve a child-focused perspective in the development and poverty reduction process worldwide (see, for example, Gordon et al, 2003; Minujin et al, 2005). This increased acknowledgement can be attributed to a number of reasons (see Gordon et al, 2003; Waddington,2004; Minujin et al, 2005). The dependence on parents, household and community for the distribution of basic needs puts children at a higher risk of poverty and makes their situation less transparent (White et al, 2003). Moreover, poverty...

    • FOURTEEN Multidimensional child deprivation in Iran
      (pp. 325-356)
      Sepideh Yousefzadeh Faal Deghati, Andrés Mideros Mora and Chris de Neubourg

      In recent decades there has been worldwide acknowledgement that children’s well-being should be analysed in a multidimensional way (Gordon et al, 2003a, b; Minujin et al, 2005; Redmond, 2008; Roelen, 2010). Subsequently, various methodologies have evolved over time concerning the definition and measurement of various aspects of deprivation (Nussbaum, 1992; Sen, 1993; Robeyns, 2006; Alkire and Foster 2008). Therefore, a wide range of literature has been produced on the status of deprived children in various developing and developed countries (Wagstaff and Watanabe, 1999; UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2000; Land et al, 2001; Gordon et al, 2003a, b; Notten and Roelen,)....

    • FIFTEEN Multidimensional child poverty in Haiti
      (pp. 357-378)
      David Gordon, Audrey Lenoel and Shailen Nandy

      Haiti has long been a beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed peoples of the world. It was the first and only country to have a successful slave-led revolution that resulted in independence from a colonial power. The Haitian Revolution of Independence between 1791 and 1804 has been described by many eloquent authors (see, for example, James, 1938; Dupuy, 1989). At the time of the revolution, Haiti was one of the most productive and wealthiest countries on the planet. Since gaining its independence, however, the Republic of Haiti has been plagued by a history of poverty, political unrest and...

    • SIXTEEN Child poverty in Latin America: multiple deprivation and monetary measures combined
      (pp. 379-418)
      Ernesto Espíndola Advis and María Nieves Rico

      According to estimates, close to 13% of Latin America’s population lived in households with incomes insufficient to meet food needs in 2008, and poverty and inequality were afflicting a large portion (33%) of the population. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty would have grown as a result of the recent international financial crisis, and the number would have reached three million (ECLAC, 2009). The region’s income distribution inequality is the most regressive in the world, and has improved little over the last 20 years.

      Not all people experience poverty in the same way, are equally vulnerable to it...

    • SEVENTEEN Changes in child poverty and deprivation in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia at the end of the 20th century
      (pp. 419-446)
      Shailen Nandy

      The importance of examining and researching child poverty as a distinct topic is now widely acknowledged (UNICEF, 2004, 2007) and reflected by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s adoption of an international definition of child poverty in 2006 (UNGA, 2006). The financial and economic crisis which swept across the world in 2008/09 has had and will continue to have serious implications for the lives of children and their families, not least because of rising food prices, widespread unemployment and cuts in government expenditure and social service provision (Mendoza, 2009). The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Global Study on Child Poverty and...

  6. Part 4

    • EIGHTEEN Utopia calling: eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom and beyond
      (pp. 449-474)
      Ruth Levitas

      2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UNICEF,2009). It marked the 10th anniversary of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pledge to eradicate child poverty in the UK by 2020 and to halve it by 2010. And 2010 was also the European year of combating poverty and social exclusion. That the European Union (EU) designated a specific year for this indicates the subordination of its social goals to the economic goals of continued growth: the latter are ongoing and dominant, and thus do not need a particular year for their promotion....

    • NINETEEN Continuity and change in poor children’s lives: evidence from Young Lives
      (pp. 475-506)
      Jo Boyden, Abby Hardgrove and Caroline Knowles

      In this chapter our aim is to provide an overview of Young Lives and of its emergent findings. Young Lives is a longitudinal study of childhood poverty in four developing countries – Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam – which was set up in 2001 with two principle aims: to improve understanding of thecausesandconsequencesof childhood poverty and to inform the development and implementation of future policies and practices that willreducechildhood poverty.¹ The study countries were chosen to reflect a wide range of cultural, economic, geographical, political and social conditions, the intent being to explore similar...

    • TWENTY Policy implications of multidimensional poverty measurement in Morocco
      (pp. 507-524)
      Hicham Ait Mansour

      During the past 20 years, official poverty rates have changed significantly in Morocco. They increased from 13% to 16% between 1991 and 2001 and then fell to 9% by 2007 (HCP, 2009). The increase between 1991 and 2001 was partly a result of slow economic growth and a decline in household expenditure (World Bank, 2001). Faster economic growth in the following decade coincided with increased household expenditure, and therefore a significant drop in the poverty rate. Total annual household expenditure increased by 2.7%, and total annual expenditure per capita by 5% between 2001 and 2007 (HCP, 2009).

      Even though poverty...

    • TWENTY-ONE A multidimensional response to tackling child poverty and disparities: reflections from the Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities
      (pp. 525-544)
      Gaspar Fajth, Sharmila Kurukulasuriya and Sólrún Engilbertsdóttir

      This chapter describes the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities, a coordinated international effort to highlight the nature and extent of multidimensional child poverty, and explores how national policies can address poverty and disparities.

      Despite strong economic growth in many developing nations over the last decade, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been uneven. Inequities have persisted or even increased, in part because economic and social policies and programmes have not always reached disadvantaged communities and vulnerable groups, particularly children. The recent global economic crisis has exacerbated these trends. Emerging evidence suggests...

    • TWENTY-TWO Investment in social security: a possible United Nations model for child benefit?
      (pp. 545-566)
      Peter Townsend

      We live in a world where children are accorded priority emotionally and politically. Five of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN) are directed at children: one is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, another to drastically reduce under-five mortality, a third to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and the fourth and fifth to ensure full and gender-equal schooling (UN, 2000). Yet international leaders have conceded that declared progress is too slow to meet the goals by 2015.

      The policies offered to protect children’s welfare have been ineffective (UNICEF, 2004, 2005) – most...

    • TWENTY-THREE Conclusion
      (pp. 567-574)
      Shailen Nandy and Alberto Minujin

      This book has presented examples of ongoing work around the world that focus on the conceptualisation and measurement of child poverty and well-being. To this end, individual chapters reported findings of country-level case studies from Bangladesh, Congo Brazzaville, Haiti, Iran, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, the US and Vietnam. Chapters also presented regional case studies, with material and data from the European Union (EU), Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Authors of all these chapters are currently involved in, and represent most of the key international research on, the measurement of multidimensional child poverty. Each contributor...