Studies have long shown that where in the U.S. a baby is born can have a major impact on that baby’s health and wellbeing going forward. But a new report out this month notes that Black and brown babies, which make up more than half of all U.S. infants, start life at a disadvantage no matter where they come into the world.
By nearly every measure, babies of color and children living in low income families face the biggest obstacles, including low birthweight, unstable housing and limited access to quality early learning experiences, the report found.
The report comes from early childhood nonprofit ZERO TO THREE, and is its second annual State of Babies Yearbook. The report gave California a general ranking of “GR” in the “GROW” scale, which ranges from “G” (the lowest) to “GROW” (the highest). The state’s best specific ranking was a “GROW” in the area of “good health.” Its lowest was a “G” in the area of “positive early learning experiences.”
Here are some noteworthy findings:
- Infant mortality: On average, 6 in 1,000 babies in the U.S. will not survive to see their first birthday. Mortality is more than twice as high for Black infants (11.1 per thousand births) as it is for White infants (4.8); and mortality for Hispanic infants is slightly higher (5.0).
- Maternal mortality: Maternal mortality, occurs at a rate of 17 deaths per 100,000 live births nationally. Maternal mortality among Black women is more than three times higher (40.8) than among White women (13.2) – a gap that has not decreased over multiple decades.
- Preterm birth and low birthweight: Preterm birth and low birthweight can undermine healthy development. Nationally, the preterm birth rate for Black women (14.1 percent) is 55 percent higher than the rate for White women (9.1 percent), and the rate for Hispanic women (9.7 percent) is 7 percent higher.
- Crowded housing: Hispanic babies (29 percent) are more than three times as likely and Black babies (17.6) and babies of Other Race (17.5) are twice as likely to live in crowded housing than White babies (7.6 percent).
- Early Head Start: Early Head Start is a proven program that improves parenting and child outcomes, yet only reaches 7 percent of income eligible children. Three-quarters of EHS participants are infants and toddlers of color.
“Our nation has been complacent for too long and has looked the other way when Black and Brown families have struggled,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer at ZERO TO THREE, in a release accompanying the report. “But our babies deserve more than what we’re giving them – they deserve the same opportunities as any other child. This is an unmitigated crisis that impacts babies and families in every single state in our country, and it has long-lasting impacts throughout our lives.”
The State of Babies Yearbook, an initiative of ZERO TO THREE’s Think Babies, compiles nearly 60 indicators, specifically for children ages 0 to 3, to measure progress in the domains of Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. The Yearbook breaks down the data for selected indicators by race/ethnicity, income, and rural/urban areas, enabling a closer look at the disparities that can exist even within states whose babies, on average, are doing well.
To read the full State of Babies Yearbook: 2020, including state-specific results, click here.