Darrell Berkheimer: The shame of our dying mothers and children
March 15, 2019
I'm feeling a certain shame over how little we, as a nation, care about our mothers and children.
I say that because the articles I've been reading lately should evoke a bit of shame in each of us, because many of our government leaders apparently are more concerned about giving tax breaks to big corporations than meeting the needs of our citizens.
A list of statistics reported in the articles reveals how much we're failing to care about the struggles our young families are facing. Here is a sampling:
U.S. women now are 50 percent more likely to die of pregnancy issues than their mothers.
U.S. child mortality rate is the worst of 20 wealthy nations.
A quarter of U.S. families go into debt to pay for child care; and it effects their jobs.
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In the U.S., single parents are forced to spend 52.7 percent of their income on child care.
Nearly one-third of U.S. children are living in an unmarried parent household.
U.S. fails to make the list of equal rights countries because of child care issues.
These are rather condemning statistics for a nation of people who like to think we are the greatest in the world. And it should be obvious that each of those statistics are related to the others, and that they show our priorities apparently are not what they should be.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control has reported U.S. women are more likely to die from childbirth or other pregnancy-related causes than women in other parts of the developed world. The CDC added that this is occurring while the international trend is in the other direction.
The U.S. number of maternal deaths steadily increased from 17 per 100,000 pregnant women to more than 26 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, according to the report issued at the end of 2018. That rate is the highest in the developed world – six times the rate in Finland.
And black women face a three to four times higher risk, the CDC reported.
It was also noted that very few maternity deaths actually occurred during childbirth, because four out of five were during the weeks and months before and after birth.
Among the main causes were high blood pressure, blood clotting, injuries, failure to get adequate physician care, and lack of paid parental leave policies. Associated reasons listed were mood and anxiety disorders, an eroding of social support, increased responsibilities, extreme sleep deprivation and relentless pressure to return to work.
Obviously we should not be forcing the closure of clinics that provide parenting health care.
And our high child mortality rate is nothing new. Since the 1980s children of all ages and both sexes have been dying more often in the U.S. than 19 other wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Researchers analyzed data from the U.S., Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The data came from the World Health Organization's Mortality Database, which revealed the U.S. rate was about 75 percent higher for infants and about 50 percent higher for children ages 1 to 19 than the average rate calculated for all of the countries in the study.
One telling comment on the statistics came from Lindsay Stark, an associate professor of population and family health at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study.
Stark said, "The future of any country is its children, so at a fundamental level, we can see a country's investment in its future in the way children are surviving and thriving."
On family child care, the publication Business Insider issued a report on a survey by Care.com, which noted American families spend an average of $18,000 a year on child care. And the impacts of those costs are significant as the survey revealed these statistics:
A quarter of families have put themselves in new or further debt to pay for child care.
20 percent say they waited to have children because of child care costs.
That number increased to 26 percent for younger parents.
67 percent of working parents said child care costs influenced their career decisions.
34 percent worry about job security and the impact of child care costs on their financial future.
85 percent of working parents say they wish their employers would offer child care.
The organization reported child care costs in the U.S., averaging 23.1 percent, is nearly twice the average of other OECD nations, at 11.8 percent.
When U.S. families were asked by Care.com how child care costs make them feel, half of the families surveyed said they wish the U.S. would take a note from other countries and subsidize child care. A whopping 16 percent went so far as to say they'd move to another country that subsidizes child care.
In a Pew Research Center analysis, the share of U.S. children living with an unmarried parent has more than doubled since 1968, jumping from 13 percent to 32 percent in 2017. And that trend has been accompanied by a drop in the share of children living with two married parents – down from 85 percent to 65 percent.
As indicated above, our nation's poor child care record is the main reason why the U.S. is not considered to be an equal-rights country.
In a report issued just a couple weeks ago by the World Bank, only six nations received full marks of 100 in the bank's "Women, Business and the Law 2019" report. Those nations are Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.
With a score of 83.75, the U.S. did not even make it into the top 50 of equal-rights nations.
The U.S. received an especially poor grade of only 20 in the "having children" category. The criteria analyzed included laws on maternity, paternity and parental leave.
Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Group Interim President, remarked: "If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well."
With reports such as these, coming from so many different sources, is it any wonder why Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has seen the need to propose an broad child care- plan that would give all parents access to free or subsidized care for their children.
For poorer and lower-middle-class households, the services would be free. Others would have to pay, with fees based on income. But families would not be required to spend any more than 7 percent of their income for child care. She would finance the program with only a portion of the wealth tax she has proposed.
Her child care plan already has gained the support of several economists who see it as a considerable boon to our U.S. economy by drawing more women into the full-time workforce. Her plan was examined by Moody's Analytics and received high praise from Chief Economist Mark Zandi.
We are a nation with many speakers throughout our political spectrum who frequently cite our need to return to family values. But it's apparent that we're talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of six books available through Amazon. His latest, Essays from The Golden Throne, also is available at Book Seller in Grass Valley. Contact him at email@example.com.
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