The United States allocates more public funds to its children than most other industrialised states but gets relatively less than its peers in return, the OECD said in a report on Tuesday.
The United States spends 140,000 dollars (97,500 euros) per child compared with an average of just over 125,000 dollars in the 30-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the report found.
"But despite the higher spending, US children do less well in areas such as health and education than their peers in most other countries," the OECD said.
For children under the age of six, however, the United States spends 20,000 dollars per child, less than the OECD average of 30,000 dollars.
Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand also "spend relatively little" on young children, according to the report, entitled Doing Better for Children.
The study compares public spending and policies targeting children according to such indicators as education, housing, family income and quality of school life.
The OECD said countries which spend relatively more on children up to the age of six include Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland and Norway.
OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria acknowledged that the global financial downturn had squeezed public budgets around the world.
"But any short-term savings on spending on children's education and health would have major long-term costs for society," he warned.
"Governments should instead seize the opportunity to get better value for from their investment in children. And spending early, when the foundations for a child's future are laid, is key, especially for disadvantaged children, and can help them break out of a cycle of poverty and social exclusion."
The report specifically recommended that policymakers consider financial incentives, such as cash payments for food vouchers, to high-risk pregnant women to encourage them to take advantage of pre-natal services.
It cited Hungary, where grants are available to expectant mothers who have at least four pre-natal health checks.
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