Published on Let's Talk Development

Born Equal? How reducing inequality could give our children a better future

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As debates on the post-2015 framework gear up, a strong view is emerging that the next development framework must aim at finishing the job that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) started at the beginning of the 2000s. There are many lessons that the development community has learnt about what worked and what should be improved this time around. A new report by Save the Children published today on the occasion of the second meeting of the United Nations High Level Panel on post-2015 in London, Born Equal: How reducing inequality could give our children a better future, argues that inequality is one of the MDGs’ blind spots that needs to be addressed in the next development framework to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to deliver the promise to eradicate extreme poverty.

Huge strides have been made towards poverty reduction in the last decade; however, when national averages on child mortality, hunger, or education are disaggregated between the rich and the poor, rural and urban areas, or gender, there are some children that are lagging a long way behind.  For instance, in Nigeria, a child born in the bottom decile is 2.5 times more likely to die before the age of 5 than children in the richest decile. In China, children in poor rural counties are six times more likely to be stunted than urban children. And in Indonesia, a sharp rise in wasting – or acute malnutrition – in the wake of the recent food crises has had an incredibly regressive effect by hitting children from the poorest households hardest.  Deeply rooted inequalities are behind strikingly unequal progress towards achieving the MDGs, and are jeopardising children’s fair chances at life.

Despite the fact that children are hardest hit by inequality, little attention has been paid to the measurement of inequality among children. New Save the Children research launched today attempts to fill this gap. It shows that across 32 countries that we studied a child in the wealthiest decile has 35 times the resources available to children in the bottom decile. This gap is twice as large as the gaps dividing the general population. And inequalities are increasing: the gap between the richest and poorest children has increased by 35 percent since 1990.

Are large and growing gaps in a child life’s chances an unfortunate but inevitable part of our world? The fact that the levels and trends in inequality differ markedly across the eight countries where we have conducted case studies (Brazil, Canada, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the UK) tells us that poverty and inequality are not “natural” or inevitable. Inequality can be managed and national policy decisions can make all the difference.

Recently, the new World Bank President has launched a global conversation on “What Will It Take?” to end poverty. Born Equal provides one answer to this timely question: eradicating global extreme poverty will, to a large extent , depend on our ability to reduce gross inequalities. The MDGs have had and still have a powerful normative effect in the way that we think and do development. The post-2015 framework presents a unique opportunity to address head on one of the tallest development challenges. A shared commitment by national governments and the international community will not only accelerate progress towards poverty eradication, but it will also help ensure that every child has a fair chance at life.


Núria Molina-Gallart

Director of Policy and Research, Save the Children

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