Low child poverty: how does it work?

Here is an interesting project for enterprising data journalists who, as we know, are only about following the hard facts. Identify the countries with the lowest child poverty rates and see what’s going on with them.

There is precedent for this kind of data journalism. Recall that time David Leonhardt endeavored to figure out whether education was at the root of some countries having higher or lower inequality, something he oddly thought people rarely talked about. Sadly, Leonhardt’s project was failed from the very beginning because he used disposable household income data instead of market income data, even though it is the market income channel through which education is supposed to work its magic. Leonhardt ended up capturing welfare state differences rather than educational differences by focusing on disposable household income instead of market income, but we all make mistakes.

To give a head start to the just-the-facts crowd, I figured I would list the five countries with the lowest relative child poverty rates in 2010, which is the last year the OECD has good data.

  1. Denmark — 3.7% — Nordic Social Welfare State
  2. Finland — 3.9% — Nordic Social Welfare State
  3. Norway — 5.1% — Nordic Social Welfare State
  4. Iceland — 7.1% — Nordic Social Welfare State
  5. Sweden — 8.2% — Nordic Social Welfare State (tie)
  6. Austria — 8.2% — The Vienna System (tie)

I’ve read enough well-trained policy experts to know that cutting child poverty is a super-difficult and inscrutable problem. But maybe there are some helpful patterns to be found. Who knows.