Unicef Logo and the text: Children Under Threat. The State of The World's Children 2005.

Giacomo Pirozzi

Measuring child poverty

The many dimensions of poverty – mortality, morbidity, hunger, sickness, illiteracy, homelessness and powerlessness – are difficult to encompass within a single unit of measurement. In an effort to address this issue, a recent empirical study by the University of Bristol and the London School of Economics has looked at seven aspects of severe deprivation as they affect children in developing countries: adequate food; safe drinking water; decent sanitation facilities; health; shelter; education; and information.

Picture Measuring child poverty: How is child poverty different from poverty in general?

The study concluded that over 1 billion children – more than half the children in developing countries – suffer from at least one form of severe deprivation. The fact that every second child is deprived from even the minimum opportunities in life is alarming. Using these criteria, about 700 million children suffer two or more deprivations.

Figure 2.2 Figure 2.2: Severe deprivation among children in the developing world, by region.
Click here to view this figure.

The investigation also confirmed that disadvantages overlap and reinforce one another. A lack of sanitation pollutes the water that children use and poor nutrition makes them vulnerable to sickness and diarrhoea which, if untreated, can further reduce children’s body weight and resistance to disease. Children who are poorly fed, frequently ill or live in crowded homes with no electricity or access to the media, are likely to encounter more problems in school. A child severely deprived of shelter, living in an overcrowded home and an impoverished neighbourhood may not be able to absorb an education even if there is a school nearby.

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