A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 15: Child poverty and child well-being in comparative perspective

Jonathan Bradshaw


Without comparison we cannot know how well our children are doing or how much better their well-being could be. This was illustrated when writing the concluding chapter of the Well-being of Children in the United Kingdom (Bradshaw, 2011). It was clear from the evidence in the book that generally the well-being of children had improved in the UK over the last 20 years or so – child poverty had fallen, child health had mostly improved, educational attainment and participation had improved, so had housing conditions, crime, play facilities, child care, and there was even evidence that subjective well-being and mental health had improved. Out of 48 indicators, 36 had improved, four had deteriorated and for eight there was no clear trend. One might have been tempted to conclude that all was well with British children – until forced to take account of the comparative evidence. The comparative evidence shows that the state of British children is still dire. Out of 42 comparative indicators the UK came in the bottom third of the international distribution in 19, the middle third in 15 and the top third in only eight. The UK was doing comparatively badly on material well-being indicators (poverty), health and health behaviours, education participation and some aspects of housing. So the conclusion was that although most aspects of well-being had been getting better, we had been starting from a very low base and still had a long way to go to be as good as we could and should be.

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