Posted by: distributorcap | September 10, 2009

All American Children are Left Behind

Yes – that is a play on the name of the much maligned (and IMHO rightfully so) Bush legacy education program. Not only has the US done a very poor job when it comes to childhood and pre-adult education (in itself worthy of a whole post), when it comes to the overall childhood development and well-being, the United States lags far behind other OECD nations.

[the OECD is a group of 30 of the economically advanced nations. The organization’s recent Child Report evaluated 21 of its members on a variety of factors]

With all the debate on health care – is there a more important task a nation needs to excel at than providing for our children’s future? Read this and weep – but please read this. It is eye-opening.

Here is the overall ranking

  1. Netherlands
  2. Sweden
  3. Denmark
  4. Finland
  5. Spain
  6. Switzerland
  7. Norway
  8. Italy
  9. Ireland
  10. Belgium
  11. Germany
  12. Canada
  13. Greece
  14. Poland
  15. Czech Republic
  16. France
  17. Portugal
  18. Austria
  19. Hungary
  20. United States
  21. United Kingdom

(OECD nations not rated for ‘overall’ ranking — Australia, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovakia, South Korea, Turkey)

Pretty pathetic huh? World’s richest nation? Family Values? Plenty of money for war, none for kids

Some of the findings include

  • European countries dominate the rankings
  • All countries have some weaknesses
  • The US is in the bottom third for 5 of the 6 categories
  • No single category stands out as demonstrating a nation’s commitment to children
  • There is no relationships between child well being and economic wealth

The categories are as follows:

Material well being : looks at the percent of children living in homes with income below the national median, the percent of children in unemployed homes and children with few education resources

US rank: #20 out of 24 (ahead of UK, Ireland, Hungary, Poland)
#1 rank – Sweden

Children living in relative p0verty to their whole nation is above 15% in 7 of the 21 nations, including the US with 22%. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to have learning and behavioral problems – and are at a big disadvantage. About 20% of teenagers in the US report having a lack of educational resources (books, etc), ranking the US in the middle.

Health and Safety : looks at infant mortality, infants with low birth rate, percent of children immunized against polio and measles and deaths from accidents.

US rank: #25 out of 25 (ahead of no one)
#1 rank – Sweden

Infant mortality rate is one of the standards for child health – reflecting deaths before the age of one. Despite the prevalence of adequate care and nutrition there is still wide disparity between OECD nations. The US rate is about 7 per 1,000 (ranking #24), better than only Hungary. The US rate is very poor among developed countries. For low birth weight – another factor in childhood health, 8% 0f US births are under 5.5 lbs. – lower than even non-OECD Russia, Croatia and Latvia. With respect to deaths from accidents per 100,000 children – the US at 22 ranks second to last. Sweden is about 8 per.

Education : looks at reading-math-science literacy, percentage of 15-19 year olds remaining in school, percentage of teenagers who expect to find low skilled work.

US rank: #14 out of 24
#1 rank – Belgium, #2 – Canada
The #3 ranking nation, Poland – is the poorest nation of the 24 ranked.

For literacy of basic education (reading, math and science) – a test was given to students in 41 countries. Of the 25 OECD nations in the panel, the US ranked #20 – only ahead of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. Having an education is necessary is finding employment and supporting oneself in a complex world – therefore staying in school (and going beyond high school) is critical. For 15-19 year olds, the US has about 74% of that age group still in the education process – ranking #22 out of 24.

Relationships: looks at the percentage of children living in single parent homes, living with stepfamilies, who spend quality time with parents, and have strong peer relationships.

US rank: #20 out of 21 (ahead of the UK)
#1 rank – Italy #2 – Portugal

Relationships with families and peers are key to long term emotional and psychological development. This is a difficult category to measure. While living in a one-parent family can be just as fulfilling and enriching as a family with 2 parents, and does not mean a child will be disadvantaged – statistically a child who grows up in a single parent home, is at a greater risk. Percent of teens living in a single parent family in the US – 22% – rank #21 – far worse than #20 UK at 17%. Teens in the US do have a high preponderance of speaking with their parents (#8), but a low percent report having strong peer groups.

Behaviors and Risks: looks at the percentage of children (Health) who eat breakfast, are physically active, who are overweight, (Risk) who smoke, who drink, who use marijuana, who have sex by age 15, who use condoms, (Violence) who are involved in fights, and who report being bullied.

US rank: #20 out of 21 (ahead of the UK)
#1 rank – Sweden #2 – Poland

For overall health – the US ranks #21 out of 21 – with Poland leading the pack. The US ranks dead last because of a low percent who eat breakfast each day (48%) and the percentage of teens that are overweight – at 25% the US is dead last, far worse than any other nation. For risk behaviors – the US ranks relatively high for smoking and drinking compared to other nations, but 30% report trying marijuana. Where the US really falls down is on teen pregnancy – with a teen birth rate of over 45 per 1,000 women age 15-19, the US is dead last at #24. Japan is #1 at 4 per 1,000, New Zealand at #23 at 30 per 1,000.

Subjective: looks at the percentage of children who rate their health poor, who like school, who say about themselves – ‘negative well being.’

US rank: was not ranked in the overall
#1 rank – Netherlands #2 – Spain

This is self-assessment. For young people who rate their health as “fair or poor,” the US ranks #21 out of 22 with 20% stating that. Only the UK is worse. On the percentage of young people who rate themselves above average in the satisfaction scale – again the US ranks low at 82%, well below the Netherlands at 93%.


Pathetic. As they say- elections have consequences, so does the (lack of) attention to children.

We spend way too much money on wars, military equipment, bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich and other assorted fun things – and not enough on our children. And we wonder why things have been getting tough for the past 40 years?


  1. Yes this is very bad. What worries me is that the U.K. is at the bottom. What does this really say about their health care system?Maybe not something to emulate.

  2. And to think some of my ancestors moved here from Sweden. Pitiful. Europe, here I come! (kidding)

  3. Conclusion: Time to move to Sweden.

  4. Quite disturbing. Although I am not really shocked at the U.S. standings. I am a bit taken aback regards the U.K., however.We in the U.S. are so self congratulatory, and yet blind to our immense faults. We have been lead to believe, for so long that we are the greatest…but it is an illusion, and given recent events and years, I fear we will not correct ourselves and move forward. Very depressing to me.

  5. I wish I were surprised, but I'm a preschool teacher.Thanks for highlighting an important issue

  6. I find it particularly interesting that the US ranks so far down in relationships and those Godless, heathen European countries rank so much higher (and yes, I know Italy is Catholic, significantly fewer people in both countries attend church on a regular basis than do people in the United States.)What does that say about "Family Values"?

  7. Hi Cap;My children are American citizens. Their Grandmother, supposedly college educated, once said to me, "what good is Canada, what have they ever done? If it weren't for us, you wouldn't be anything."Unfortunately that attitude prevails. Funny thing about it, Canada may not be perfect, but I notice far less "gated" communities and I don't have an alarm system or bars on my windows. The school doesn't have metal detectors and as far as quality of life is concerned, other than the weather at times, seems to be far superior, most government interaction with people fairly civil and the per capita incarceration rate far lower.In most if not all surveys and studies Canada ranks above the US as having a higher quality of life.I think about what my children's grandmother said and still believes in and I think to myself, brain washed. 🙂

  8. Those Godless, Tolerant, Pot-Smoking Swedes.How dare they do so well in this poll. This must have some obvious Leftist bent!

  9. Unfortunately your conclusion is only too accurate. What is worse, "No Child Left Behind" has morphed into, " No Child Left with a Mind". The program, in essence, ties funding to test scores: collective test scores too low? -Your district gets less funding. It has led to too many schools basically instructing students to 'take' tests, not learn.This is an analysis of those in my family who teach, friends in local school administrations, and personel at the local "Test and Evaluation Center" at the U of Wis that I am accquainted with. In general it has become a matter of not whether the donkey is in front of the cart or behind it, but a case of 'fuck the cart-just teach-the-donkey to chase the carrot.' The bedrock of the program sucked from the beginning… poor districts with less than adequate facilities or teachers…. just got less… again.Great post.

  10. Worth noting, the UK is down at the bottom of the rankings along with the US. Who was the biggest supporter of US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hmm.

  11. Holte it looks like we saw the end of the British empire and now were seeing the end of the U.S. empire.When lowering taxes became more important than the welfare of the people, that was the beginning of the end. It started with Reagan and hasn't let up.

  12. Demeur rightThe fall of Spain, the fall of Great Briton, The Soviet Union and now it looks like U.S. is the result of arrogance and hubris.It's AOK to pick out Reagan but I track it back to Nixon.

  13. I'm a college proffie and believe you methe deterioration of the K-12 product isnot only accelerating, its accelerationtoo is accelerating ! K-12 appears tobe competing in the race to the bottomto end all races to the bottom.

  14. "what good is Canada, what have they ever done? If it weren't for us, you wouldn't be anything."Yeah, I also hear this from time to time, or "Well, if it wasn't for the U.S. big military umbrella, Canada would have been nuked or invaded by the Russians."Of course the Soviet Union assisted Third World communist revolutions and probably would have welcomed a communist Canada or Australia or whatever into their sphere, but there isn't much evidence that the U.S. military "saved" the rest of the world from much of anything. The Soviets never had much of an appetite for full scale military intervention outside their historic sphere of influence and the Americans are still the only country to ever use the Bomb. But what Americans are taught about world history seems very different than what the rest of us are taught.

  15. And the UK rankings don't surprise me. They were a class-ridden society to begin with and then went through a period of Reagan-lite during the Thatcher era. It doesn't look you can blame their healthcare system, which is replicated in some of the countries with higher rankings.

  16. Millions of "educated" children and young adults who can't think critically and couldn't reason their way out of a paper bag — Mission Accomplished!If people could think rationally, how would we be able to persuade them to go out and demonstrate on behalf of the HMOs, the oil and coal industries and the wealthiest 1% of the population? We wouldn't be able to drum up support for invading other countries just by yelling out "weapons of mass destruction!"It's a pain in the butt to have an intelligent population that can think clearly and logically. It's so much easier when you have a nation of drones who will jump, scream, or bend over as soon as you give them the order.

  17. Do you think if we sawed America in half at the Mason Dixon line and pushed the Southern half out to sea the numbers would improve?

  18. Karen… nooooo I live in Austin, Tx 😦

  19. Karen, only if we included D.C. as being above the line.

  20. Ryan, I live in San Antonio.But damn, are there some idiots here.Austin is Texas's oasis of progressives and liberals. Why Rick Perry has not been tarred and feathered by Austinites is a wonder.Hmm. I guess torching his gov's mansion counts…

  21. Hello Distributorcap,There is a typo seen below.Education : looks at reading-math-science literacy, percentage of 15-19 year olds remaining in school, percentage of teenagers who expect to find low skilled work.US rank: #14 out of 24 (ahead of no one)#1 rank – Belgium, #2 – CanadaThe #3 ranking nation, Poland – is the poorest nation of the 24.Here is the type and correction: US rank: #14 out of 24 (ahead of no one).Should read: US rank: #24 out of 24 (ahead of no one)caseyf57

  22. It's not enough that this is so disturbing – it ought to be a STFU call to all those sheeple who scream at town meetings that "It's FINE the way it is, why do you Lefties want to destroy our Beautiful America??"And JAS' comment that we beware of the UK's health care model conveniently neglects to look at Sweden's more "socialist" one!

  23. Educated minds are thinking minds, and thinking is anathema to Conservatism (when said conservatism is interested in only conserving the financial and privilege status quo).Excellent piece, DCap.

  24. As a middle school teacher, I HATE NCLB. The curriculum has been steered towards teaching to the test. Many of my fun activities? I don't have time for them any more. I work ten hours per day (many weekends) to find activities that don't bore ME to tears. Principals get pressure from central office to increase test scores. They understand how much NCLB sucks, but it's out of their hands too. I have to admit…there are many days I just close my door and teach lessons that have nothing to do with that stupid, culturally biased, inane test.

  25. Keep 'em coming, DCap.

  26. "(Can you imagine if the President was a liberal Democratic Black Jewish woman who was married to an Hispanic agnostic?)"roflmao

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