Barack Obama’s administration heads an historic attack on public education with hundreds of schools having closed and hundreds of thousands of teachers losing their jobs over the last four years.
This could seem an exaggeration, but statistics from all sorts of sources show that the United States is not a paradise for children, as among many other things, one in seven are subject to high levels of poverty.
A recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which attacks the growing levels of poverty in the main capitalist countries places the USA low down in relation to other developed nations.
The study by UNICEF maintains that according to the global indicator, Washington is 26th out of 29, behind Greece and just ahead of Lithuania, Latvia and Romania.
The text places the country at 27 when the indicator of education is taken into account, while in regard to material wellbeing of children the US is at number 26. This is despite having the highest Gross Domestic Product in the world.
According to statistics, 36% of American children live below the poverty line, something which is most evident among the Latino and Black minorities. On the other hand, Finland has less than 5% child poverty, a figure which emphasizes the problems of American children.
UNICEF’s report highlights another issue; with regards to evaluating the education of the most developed countries, the USA is among those countries with less than 80% of children enrolled in pre-school .
Some critics maintain that the White House’s promise of having a high quality pre-school available to all children, promoted through the federal programme Head Start is pure demagoguery, according to an article by the Canadian publication Global Research.
Officials from the census office estimate that one sixth of the population lives in a state of poverty.
Some experts say that “paradise or the American Dream” is just a fairy story, as it is difficult for children who grow up in low income households to escape the poverty trap once they are adults.
According to a study conducted in 2009 by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), children born into families with a higher than average household income have a higher probability of being higher earners than their parents, whereas those born to low income families have a high probability of being poorer than their parents.
Other statistics show the problem quite plainly; the poverty gap between children and adults has doubled since the year 2000. The official statistic for child poverty in the USA is now 21% in comparison to 9% of American adults.
The figures in the year 2000 were 16% and 10% respectively. Besides that, the bitter reality is that American children are the most vulnerable sector of society and an estimated 17 million lack appropriate nutrition, according to data from Feeding America (an organisation which brings together 200 food banks and is the most important charitable organisation for food distribution in the country).
A report by the Bread for the World Institute, a religious organisation against hunger, found that in 2009 malnutrition affected 14.7% of all American households although Hispanic families were harder hit at 26.9%.
In the United States of America at least 34.9% of Latinos under 18 years old (5.3 million) suffered from malnutrition, a very high figure when compared with the percentage of the whole country’s population of undernourished children 23.2% (17.2 million).
The institute pointed out that this has further repercussions on the health of the population, for example; Latino children suffer disproportionately from obesity, diabetes, asthma and hypertension.
Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation confirms that the current economic crisis eliminated many of the economic benefits for children born at the end of the 1990’s, adding that the number of children affected by mortgage foreclosures, causing their homes to be repossessed and a disruption to their life often affecting their wellbeing.
According to a report by the same organisation, in 2010, 11% of children had at least one parent who was unemployed.
Looking at it from another angle, Latino children are the sector of the population which is growing the most in the USA and at the same time they are becoming poorer.
Among Latinos the youth population (under 17 years old) is the sector growing the most in comparison to other age groups and groups of other ethnicities; today they number more than 17 million having increased by 39% in the last decade alone, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
One in every four children in the USA lives without safe access to sufficient nutritious food, “Afro-American children are facing the worst crisis since the times of slavery, and in all parts of the country Hispanic and Native American children are finding themselves in a similar situation”, states the center.
Latino children do not know if they will eat today, nor if they will eat tomorrow; more than a third live in poverty with uncertainty about their nutrition, according to the 2012 report entitled The State of America’s Children.
The continuation of the food bank programmes is threatened by budget cuts, and by changes in the programmes, which have been proposed by the Republicans in Congress, which make it difficult for the social security system to work for children living in poverty.
Some say that the United States of America is a society which hurts its own children by not guaranteeing to meet their basic needs, something which unmasks the arguments used to proclaim the motto of the American Dream.
The State of America’s Children, says that the economic crisis of the last five years has caused Hispanic children and teenagers to sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of poverty, hunger, abandonment and desperation.
The report goes on to highlight the fact that Hispanic children and teenagers continue to face many risks from birth and throughout their lives. This is something which increases the danger of facing a path with no way out which can take them from the cot to a jail cell.
(Translated by Frances Singer)