1.2 Billion Childhoods Threatened by Conflict, Poverty, Gender Discrimination, New Save the Children Report Reveals

U.S. Ranks 36th in Global Childhood Ranking; New Analysis Finds Rural Child Poverty Rates Higher than Urban in More Than 85 Percent of U.S. States

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (2 p.m. EDT May 30, 2018) – More than half of all children globally – over 1.2 billion – are threatened by widespread poverty, conflict or discrimination against girls, a new report by Save the Children has found.

Launched ahead of International Children’s Day on June 1, the End of Childhood Report examines how these three key factors are robbing children of their childhoods around the world. In its second year, the report titled The Many Faces of Exclusion, also includes an index depicting where childhood is most and least threatened among 175 countries. The index tracks “childhood enders” – life-changing events that cause children to miss out on childhood – including displacement by conflict and extreme violence, mortality rates of children under age 5, adolescent birth rates, child marriage, child labor, school dropout rates and malnutrition.

Singapore and Slovenia both rank first, with Norway, Sweden and Finland rounding out the top five. Eight of the bottom 10 countries are in West and Central Africa, with Niger ranked last for the second year running. The U.S. ranks 36th, between Belarus and Russia, and well behind other developed nations, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

“Most of the world’s children are being robbed of their childhoods and their futures because they’re living in poverty, growing up in warzones or experiencing discrimination for being girls,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “While we’re seeing some progress in many countries – when it comes to childhood-disrupting events like early marriage, exclusion from education and poor health – progress is not happening quickly enough for the world’s most vulnerable children. Save the Children is committed to making sure every last child has the childhood – and the future – they deserve.”

To better understand the America’s low country ranking, Save the Children also conducted a state-by-state analysis in its U.S. Complement, titled Growing Up Rural in America, finding that rural child poverty rates are higher than urban rates in more than 85 percent of U.S. states. Overall, one in four children in America’s rural areas live in poverty, compared to one in five who live in urban areas. And five states – Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina – all have rural child poverty rates at or above 33 percent, meaning at least 1 in 3 rural children in these states are growing up in poverty.

“Children in rural America are more likely to die in infancy, miss out on meals, become pregnant as teenagers and not attend college,” said Mark Shriver, Save the Children’s Senior Vice President for U.S. Programs & Advocacy. “Rural child poverty rates have been persistently high for at least three generations in the U.S. That’s why Save the Children is working in the rural areas most crippled by poverty, helping children overcome the challenges they face because of where they live, so they can reach their full potential.”

The U.S. Complement ranks all 50 states on five childhood enders that cause children to miss out on childhood in America, including infant mortality rates, child homicide and suicide rates, adolescent birth rates, child food insecurity rates and rates of children not graduating high school on time.

The state ranking finds childhood is most intact in New Jersey, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut; while childhood is most threatened in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Alabama, respectively.

The Many Faces of Exclusion also found that:

  • More than one billion children live in countries plagued by poverty; 240 million in countries affected by conflict and fragility; and more than 575 million girls live in countries where gender bias is a serious issue.
  • Almost 153 million children are living in 20 countries affected by all three threats—including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan.
  • Malnutrition, disease and inadequate healthcare kill over 20 times as many children in war zones as conflict-related violence.
  • The incidence of child labor in countries affected by armed conflict is 77 percent higher than the global average. Conflict also makes girls more vulnerable to child marriage.
  • Only four of 34 fragile or conflict-affected states with available data have achieved, or nearly achieved, universal primary education.
  • The poorest girls have about three times as many births as the wealthiest.

The U.S. Complement to the End of Childhood Report: Growing Up Rural in America found that:

  • An estimated 14.1 million children live in poverty across America, at a rate of 19.5 percent: 23.5 percent of children in rural areas are impoverished, compared to 18.8 percent in urban areas; among the 41 U.S. counties with poverty rates of 50 percent or higher, 93 percent (38 out of 41) are rural.
  • 10 of the 12 states with the highest rates of rural child poverty are in the Southeast, including particularly impoverished sub-regions Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta.
  • Children growing up in rural areas are more affected than their urban peers to infant mortality, food insecurity, low education levels and teen pregnancy
  • Infant mortality in rural counties was 20 percent higher than in large urban communities
  • 90 percent of the counties with high child food insecurity rates are rural
  • 4 out of 5 of “low education” counties in the U.S. are rural
  • Teen birth rates in rural areas are over 60 percent higher than those found in urban areas

Save the Children is calling on governments to ensure that no child dies from preventable or treatable causes or is subjected to extreme violence; is robbed of a future as a result of malnutrition, early or forced marriage, early pregnancy, or forced labor; and that they have access to a quality education.

“Without urgent action, we’ll never meet the promises made three years ago by every country at the United Nations to ensure every child is in school, protected, healthy and alive by 2030 – governments can and must do more to give every child the best possible start in life,” said Miles.

To download and read the full report, visit www.EndofChildhood.org.

Editor’s Note: To arrange a media interview with key Save the Children spokespeople, or to request photos, b-roll packages, videos, and/or other creative assets, please contact Sara Neumann by phone at 203.209.6545 or email at [email protected] or Jeremy Soulliere by phone at 203.295.5842 or by email at [email protected].

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


Thank you for signing up! Now, you’ll be among the first to know how Save the Children is responding to the most urgent needs of children, every day and in times of crisis—and how your support can make a difference. You may opt-out at any time by clicking "unsubscribe" at the bottom of any email.

By providing my mobile phone number, I agree to receive recurring text messages from Save the Children (48188) and phone calls with opportunities to donate and ways to engage in our mission to support children around the world. Text STOP to opt-out, HELP for info. Message & data rates may apply. View our Privacy Policy at savethechildren.org/privacy.