Social Indicators Research

, Volume 106, Issue 2, pp 239–257 | Cite as

A Review Essay on the Measurement of Child Well-Being

  • Liliana Fernandes
  • Américo Mendes
  • Aurora A. C. Teixeira


Research on indicators related to the state of child well-being is a growing field that has experienced several changes over time. The growing supply of data on children, as well as the need to facilitate conclusions and to track trends, has led researchers to develop a number of child well-being indexes. This paper critically reviews the most recent and relevant child well-being indexes, i.e., the Index of Child and Youth Well-Being in the United States, the Child Well-being Index for the European Union, the Microdata Child Well-being Index, and the Deprivation Index. The study focuses primarily on the contributions and innovations the indexes have brought to the field, making a critical assessment of the methods used in the construction of the indexes and identifying their main limitations.


Child well-being Measurement Child indicators Composite indexes 



This paper counted on financial support from the Science and Technology Foundation (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia—FCT), of the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Superior Education, as part of a PhD Scholarship funded by this institution.


  1. Aber, L., Gershoff, E. T., Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). Social exclusion of children in the US: Compiling indicators of factors from which and by which children are excluded. Paper presented at the Conference on Social Exclusion and Children, Columbia University, 3–4 May 2001.Google Scholar
  2. Alderman, H., Orazem, P. F., & Paterno, E. M. (2001). School quality, school cost, and the public/private school choices of low-income households in Pakistan. The Journal of Human Resources, 36(2), 304–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bastos, A., Fernandes, G. L., & Passos, J. (2004). Child income poverty and child deprivation: an essay on measurement. International Journal of Social Economics, 31(11/12), 1050–1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastos, A., Fernandes, G. L., Passos, J., & Malho, M. J. (2008). Um Olhar Sobre a Pobreza Infantil–Análise das Condições de Vida das Crianças. Coimbra: Edições Almedina.Google Scholar
  5. Bastos, A., & Machado, C. (2009). Child poverty: a multidimensional measurement. International Journal of Social Economics, 36(3), 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ben-Arieh, A. (2000). Beyond welfare: measuring and monitoring the state of children–new trends and domains. Social Indicators Research, 52, 235–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ben-Arieh, A. (2005). Where are the children? Children’s role in measuring and monitoring their well-being. Social Indicators Research, 74, 573–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ben-Arieh, A. (2006). Measuring and monitoring the well-being of young children around the world. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong foundations: early childhood care and education. Google Scholar
  9. Ben-Arieh, A. (2008). The child indicators movement: Past, present, and future. Child Indicators Research, 1, 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ben-Arieh, A., & Goerge, R. (2001). Beyond the numbers: How do we monitor the state of our children? Children and Youth Services Review, 23(8), 603–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bradshaw, J. (Ed.). (2002). The well-being of children. London: Save the Children.Google Scholar
  12. Bradshaw, J., Hoelscher, P., & Richardson, D. (2006). Comparing child well-being in OECD countries: concepts and methods. IWP 2006–03. Florence: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  13. Bradshaw, J., Hoelscher, P., & Richardson, D. (2007). An index of child well-being in the European Union. Social Indicators Research, 80, 133–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bradshaw, J., & Richardson, D. (2009). An Index of child well-being in Europe. Child Indicators Research, 2, 319–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical models of human development (5th ed., Vol. 1). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Brooks-Gunn, J., & Duncan, G. J. (1997). The effects of poverty on children. The Future of Children, 7(2), 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brooks-Gunn, J., Duncan, G. J., & Aber, J. L. (Eds.). (1997a). Neighbourhood poverty–context and consequences for children (Vol. I). New York: Russel Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  18. Brooks-Gunn, J., Duncan, G. J., & Aber, J. L. (Eds.). (1997b). Neighbourhood Poverty–Policy implications in studying neighbourhoods (Vol. II). New York: Russel Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  19. Brown, B. V. (1997). Indicators of Children’s Well-being: A review of current indicators based on data from the federal statistical system. In P. M. Hauser, B. B. Brown, & W. R. Prosser (Eds.), Indicators of child well-being. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. Cornia, G. A., & Danzinger, S. (1997). Child poverty and deprivation in the industrialized countries 1945–1995–A UNICEF International Child Development Centre Study. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. European Commission (2008). Child poverty and well-being in the EU - current status and way forward. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  22. Fan, X., & Chen, M. J. (1999). Academic achievement of rural school students: a multi-year comparison with their peers in suburban and urban schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 15(1), 31–46.Google Scholar
  23. Hagerty, M. R., & Land, K. C. (2007). Constructing summary indices of quality of life: A model for the effect of heterogeneous importance weights. Sociological Methods Research, 35, 455–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hobcraft, J. (2002). Social exclusion and the generations. In J. Hills, J. Le Grand, & David. Piachaud (Eds.), Understanding social exclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hoelscher, P. (2004). A thematic study using transnational comparisons to analyse and identify what combination of policy responses are most successful in preventing and reducing high levels of child poverty. Final Report, March 2004, submitted to the European Commission.Google Scholar
  26. Kiernan, K. (2002). Disadvantage and demography–chicken and egg? In J. Hills, J. Le Grand, & David. Piachaud (Eds.), Understanding social exclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Land, K. C., Lamb, V. L., Meadows, S. O., & Taylor, A. (2007). Measuring trends in child well-being: an evidence-based approach. Social Indicators Research, 80, 105–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Land, K. C., Lamb, V. L., & Mustillo, S. K. (2001). Child and youth well-being in the United States, 1875–1998: some findings from a new index. Social Indicators Research, 56, 241–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lubienski, C., Lubienski, S. T. (2006). Charter, private, public schools and academic achievement: New evidence from NAEP mathematics data. Project funded by the National Centre for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, and published by the National Centre for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE). New York: NCSPE.Google Scholar
  30. Micklewright, J., & Stewart, K. (2000). The welfare of Europe’s children–Are EU member states converging? Bristol: The Polity Press.Google Scholar
  31. Moore, K. A. (1997). Criteria for indicators of child well-being. In P. M. Hauser, B. B. Brown, & W. R. Prosser (Eds.), Indicators of child well-being. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  32. Moore, K. A. (1999). Indicators of child and Family Well-being: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Presented to the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, September 13.Google Scholar
  33. Moore, K. A., Theokas, C., Lippman, L., Bloch, M., Vandivere, S., & O’Hare, W. (2008). A microdata child well-being index: Conceptualization, creation, and findings. Child Indicators Research, 1, 17–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moore, K. A., Vandivere, S., Lippman, L., Mcphee, C., & Bloch, M. (2007). An Index of the Condition of Children: The Ideal and Less-than-Ideal U.S. Example. Social Indicators Research, 84, 291–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Piachaud, D., & Sutherland, H. (2002). “Child Poverty”. In J. Hills, J. Le Grand, & David. Piachaud (Eds.), Understanding social exclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Portugal (2008). National strategy for social protection and social inclusion, 2008–2010.Google Scholar
  37. Redmond, G. (2008). Children’s perspectives on economic adversity: A review of literature. Innocenti working paper No. 2008–01, UNICEF. Florence: Innocenti Research Centre.Google Scholar
  38. Redmond, G. (2009). Children as actors: How does the child perspectives literature treat agency in the context of poverty? Social Policy and Society, 8(4), 541–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reeves, E. B., & Bylund, R. A. (2005). Are rural schools inferior to urban schools? A multilevel analysis of school accountability trends in Kentucky. Rural Sociology, 70(3), 360–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ridge, T. (2004). Childhood poverty and social exclusion. Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  41. Secretary of State for Social Security. (1999). Opportunity for all–Tackling poverty and social exclusion. Presented to the Parliament by Command of Her Majesty September 1999. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  42. Sparkes, J., & Glennester, H. (2002). Preventing social exclusion: Education’s contribution. In J. Hills, J. Le Grand, & David. Piachaud (Eds.), Understanding social exclusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sutton, L., Smith, N., Dearden, C., & Middleton, S. (2007). A child’s-eye view of social difference. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  44. Tsakloglou, P., & Papadopoulos, F. (2002). Identifying population groups at high risk of social exclusion: Evidence from the ECHP. In R. Muffels, P. Tsakloglou, & D. Mayes (Eds.), Social exclusion in European welfare States. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  45. UNICEF. (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Innocenti Report Card 7. Florence: UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre.Google Scholar
  46. Van der Hoek, T. (2005). Through children’s eyes: An initial study of children’s personal experiences and coping strategies growing up poor in an affluent Netherlands. Innocenti Working Paper No. 2005–06, UNICEF. Florence: Innocenti Research Centre.Google Scholar
  47. Vleminckx, K., & Smeeding, T. M. (Eds.). (2001). Child well-being, child poverty and child policy in modern nations–What do we know?. Bristol: The Polity Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liliana Fernandes
    • 1
  • Américo Mendes
    • 1
  • Aurora A. C. Teixeira
    • 2
  1. 1.Portuguese Catholic University (UCP)—Faculty of Economics and Management (FEG)PortoPortugal
  2. 2.CEF.UP, Faculty of Economics (FEP)University of Porto, INESC Porto, OBEGEFPortoPortugal

Personalised recommendations