Summary of Key Findings
Child well-being is of considerable public interest in many OECD countries. While each country’s child policy discussion has its own distinct national aspect, there are shared concerns across the OECD. In this context, examining child well-being and policies to improve it is a timely endeavour. What do government programmes and spending achieve? What can be done to improve child well-being? This report aims to answer these questions. This chapter sets out the report’s structure and summarises its key recommendations. It explains how governments should invest to enhance child well-being and outlines things they should do less of and things they should keep an eye on.
Comparative Child Well-being across the OECD
This chapter offers an overview of child well-being across the OECD. It compares policy-focussed measures of child well-being in six dimensions, chosen to cover the major aspects of children’s lives: material well-being; housing and environment; education; health and safety; risk behaviours; and quality of school life. Each dimension is a composite of several indicators, which in turn have been selected in part because they are relatively amenable to policy choices. This chapter presents the theory, methodology and data sources behind the measures, as well as the indicators for each member country in a comparable fashion. It is at the individual level that the indicators can best inform policy and comparisons can be most readily made. The data is reported by country and, where possible, by sex, age and migrant status. All indicators presented in the framework are already publically available. There has been no attempt to collect new data. Note that no single aggregate score or overall country ranking for child well-being is presented. Nevertheless, it is clear that no OECD country performs well on all fronts.
Social Spending across the Child's Life Cycle
This chapter looks at how governments distribute social spending amongst children of different ages, the first time such comparison has been undertaken across the OECD. The first section of this chapter examines the distribution of spending through cash transfers and services across the child life cycle in 28 OECD countries. The second section explores variations in the cash transfers made to families with children, modelling and comparing tax-benefit systems as children age in eight OECD countries in 2003: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The results are presented in terms of relative levels of support across the child life cycle for different family types.
From Conception to Kindergarten
This chapter explores in more detail the varying policy approaches taken by OECD countries to enhance child well-being during the very earliest part of the child’s life cycle. It covers children from the pre-natal period up until about age 3, outlining interventions with a child well-being focus that take place for mothers and children in the pre-natal, birth and post-natal periods. Public health and nutrition, child-care and education, and various tax and benefit policies are considered.
Child Well-being and Single Parenthood
This chapter assesses whether and how the rise in single parenthood influences child well-being. It first describes the types of family structure experienced by children in different OECD countries, and moves on to explain why single-parent family structure may influence child well-being. A meta-analysis follows, drawing on a large number of studies and comparing the effects of single parenthood across countries and by well-being dimensions. The penultimate section of the chapter discusses new techniques to identify causality in the literature, while the final section examines policy implications.
Childhood and Inter-generational Mobility
This chapter looks at how parents’ outcomes and those of their children are related, with a focus on earnings and education. Almost all measures of adult well-being – health status, earnings and income, education, intelligence, behaviour, personality, and occupation – share a degree of persistence between family generations. Childhood is the time when family and government investments most influence the extent to which the future adult trajectories of children mirror those of their parents and the extent to which inequalities persist between generations. The chapter begins by setting the context, and then considers the extent of inter-generational earnings and education inequality in different countries and whether they have been changing over time. The causes of inter-generational inequality are then considered before addressing the policy issue of the illusive optimal level of inter-generational inequality.
Doing Better for Children
This chapter offers a range of policy recommendations for improving child wellbeing: invest early in children’s lives; concentrate on improving the lot of vulnerable children; design interventions for children that reinforce positive development across their life cycle and across a range of well-being outcomes; create clear, achievable targets for child well-being outcomes and regularly collect high-quality information on children’s well-being that is nationally and internationally comparable. Finally, governments should continuously experiment with policies and programmes for children, rigorously evaluate them to see whether they enhance child well-being, and reallocate money from programmes that don’t work to those that do. This approach ensures resources allocated to children progressively enhance child wellbeing.
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