Childhood poverty matters directly - for children constitute a large share of the population - and indirectly - for future individual and national well-being. Developed countries measure poverty in terms of income-poverty, although health and education are often taken into account. But these are not necessarily the most direct measure of the things that matter for children. A broader range of factors than material well-being are important for child development. Family and community circumstances, social and psychological variables are important components of child welfare.
Can such a conclusion be extended to developing countries? At first sight, it would seem not - for the challenges of tackling malnutrition, illiteracy, premature death and the factors which cause them are so massive. But such a view is short-sighted. Child development concerns are just as important in developing countries as they are in developed ones - albeit less well understood. Approaches to measuring and improving child welfare in developing countries should also adopt a broad-based approach that embraces diverse aspects of a child's life, including his/her rights.
Childhood poverty indicators are different from 'standard' poverty indicators, such as income or adult illiteracy, since they need to reflect the special position of children. This paper discusses whether available measures of child welfare are appropriate to the needs of children. It compares approaches to measuring childhood poverty in developing and developed countries. The paper argues for a broader conception of child welfare, for policy and analysis. The conclusions bolster the call by Young Lives for research to take a multi-faceted approach to child well-being.
Keywords: well-being, welfare, measures, indicators, emotional index, behavioural index, perceptions of well-being