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An International Index of Child Welfare

This paper develops an international index of child welfare that can be used for comparisons across countries and over time. Values of this index for the year 1998 are presented for 118 countries. The paper is organized as follows. Sections 2 briefly discusses the importance of child welfare both as a means to advance economic development objectives and as an end in itself. Section 3 calculates National Performance Gaps (NPGs), a concept first introduced by UNICEF (1995) to measure child welfare variables relative to international norms based on per capita income. After a review of some methodological issues, estimates are presented of NPGs for five variables: (1) the infant mortality rate; (2) the under-five mortality rate; (3) the percentage of underfive children who are underweight; (4) the primary school enrollment rate; and (5) the percentage of children reaching grade five. Section 4 draws on these NPGs to devise a composite index of child welfare, WINOCENT. Finally, Section 5 offers some concluding remarks.

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