“If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, quickest and cheapest things we could do would be to ensure that as few people as possible become parents before they want to,” says Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution.
Even though poverty and pregnancy go hand in hand in our country, I hear a lot about pregnancy, but not so much about poverty. And I hear about pregnancy from interesting sources – old white politicians.
As the national political discourse became more strident, many unexpected issues got stuck in my head: poverty, empowerment of men but not women, health care, contraception, prenatal care, postnatal care, maternity leave, healthy mothers, overworked mothers, healthy babies, sick babies, wealthy new parents and parents caught in poverty.
Apparently, this space is dedicated to financial and social issues affecting seniors. And, I guess those families make a difference in the country we leave to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
For 2020, the United States had the third highest child poverty rate among the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, founded in Paris in 1948). You read correctly. We are just ahead of Costa Rica and South Africa and behind Bulgaria, Romania, Israel and all the rest. We’ve been stuck near the bottom for decades.
Iceland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and Ireland have the fewest poor children.
The OECD defines the poverty rate as “the ratio of the number of people (in a given age group) whose income is below the median household income of 50% of the total population”.
Post-COVID numbers indicate that at least 17% of young people in the United States live in poverty. This represents approximately one in seven children aged 17 or younger. According to the State of the Child in Tennessee report, published by the Tennessee State Commission on Children and Youth, 22.6 percent of children live in poverty in our state, or more than one in five.
Child poverty in Anderson County can be close to 20% – and not just in the corners of the county, but also in Oak Ridge and Clinton. When you look at the face of a young person on one of our streets, you may see hunger without knowing it.
When states received federal funds to help reduce child poverty, Tennessee retained more dollars than any other state, hoarding at least $732 million, according to The Tennessean, a sister newspaper to The Oak Ridger.
About $214 million has been earmarked, but not spent, for child care, if needed so families can get jobs. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find information on how much the state is currently spending — or accumulating — available federal funds to fight poverty. These funds are apparently deposited in an account in Washington, without interest.
Even though I don’t hear a lot about poverty, but a lot about pregnancy, I don’t hear empathy for moms or moms-to-be – rich or poor.
Pregnancy, itself, is a dangerous medical condition. It can be a scary and overwhelming process for an overworked, malnourished woman or a young girl whose body is trying to mature.
The mother’s uterus provides a safe place for the growing fetus. The mother produces about 50% more blood than usual in order to provide a growing fetus with oxygen and nutrients. Its lungs oxygenate the fetus and its digestive system produces the nutrients they both need. The mother’s organs are involved and she has no control over the process even if she is exhausted or ill.
Although pregnancy is a serious medical condition, many women do not have health insurance or access to prenatal care. Women who do not receive prenatal care have low birth weight babies, babies who are five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who receive care, according to womenshealth.gov.
Without health insurance, prenatal and postnatal care is sketchy or non-existent for many poor women.
Texas continues to make headlines (breaking our hearts) and 26.3% of women of childbearing age in Texas do not have health insurance, according to americanhealthrankings.org. Nationally, 12.9 percent of women lack health insurance, according to houstonpublicmedia.org.
If you are disgusted by medical conditions and bodily functions, you should probably skip the next few paragraphs. They take care of the female body after childbirth.
The body has to recover from pregnancy, of course, and women have to deal with breast engorgement, constipation, pelvic floor changes, sweating, uterine pain, and vaginal discharge.
According to the verywellfamily.com website, here are postpartum supplies that help ease pregnancy recovery: maternity pads, mesh underwear, Chux pads, loose (comfortable) underwear, maxi pads, or baby pads. urinary incontinence. According to the website, other supplies needed are a squirt bottle, gauze pads or disposable washcloths, numbing products, painkillers, sitz bath, ice packs, Tucks, donut-shaped pillow and healthy foods, snacks and drinks.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a 12-year-old pregnant incest victim, a mother who has to return to work almost immediately, a wealthy mother who has help at home with her other children. or a stable 40-something with good health insurance who has decided to have a baby, the body needs to recover.
What if women had paid maternity leave, time to heal?
“The United States is the only wealthy country in the world without any nationally guaranteed paid parental leave. … While nine states and the District of Columbia mandate some degree of paid parental leave, federal law guarantees new parents only six weeks of unpaid leave, and not all workers are eligible,” states the Washington Post.
“Paid parental leave is not particularly controversial in much of the world. In Britain, a working mother can take up to 52 weeks, a full year, of maternity leave. Thirty-nine of those weeks are paid, provided they meet hiring criteria,” the Post continues.
“Proponents of paid leave for new parents say it improves the well-being of parents and babies, allowing parents to take time off while providing some job and income protection. … Proponents argue that these policies also recognize the work and economic contribution that parents make in caring for their children, as well as the time it takes to recover physically and emotionally after childbirth,” says the Post.
Health care makes a big difference in outcomes for pregnant women and their babies, of course.
The maternal mortality rate in the United States in 2019 was 17.4 per 100,000 live births, the fifth highest mortality rate among 58 countries. Our country ranks last among industrialized countries, according to “Statista”.
According to the same report, Iceland, Estonia, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, Norway, Ireland and Luxembourg recorded no maternal deaths in 2019. Poland recorded 1.1 and Canada 7.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
Tennessee recorded 26.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019, making it the 11th most dangerous state in the United States to give birth and making it slightly more dangerous than giving birth in Costa Rica at 20.2 deaths per 100,000 live births and makes it a bit safer. than giving birth in Mexico with 34.2 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Louisiana is the most dangerous state to give birth with 58.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. That’s worse than Colombia, South America, which has 50.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Georgia is the second most dangerous state to give birth with 48.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, almost as dangerous as Colombia, according to the “World Population Review”, a report written in 2022, “based on the most data recent available. ”
The United States did not report maternal deaths for 11 years between 2005 and 2016 because states were reluctant to report childbirth-related deaths, according to Vox.
Universal health care is a health care system in which 90% of the residents of a particular country or region have assured access to health care.
Although standards vary widely, some 70 countries provide universal health care, with at least 30 countries providing free care to most of its citizens. Many of these countries provide free contraception, prenatal care, postnatal care, paid maternity leave, and manage breastfeeding acceptance.
The United States joins South Africa, Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and China (although China there works) for not providing universal health care, according to World Atlas.com.
Even though our federal and state governments spend billions on childbirth-related conditions and intensive neonatal services for babies in need, care is unevenly available. It is as if our country could follow the example of other nations and spend some of this money to help women and families with health care, contraception and sex education.
If we are the richest country in the world, we are surely unequally developed.
With the end-of-life care guidelines, both men and women decide what they want for their bodies, but we don’t want to give women of childbearing age the same freedom.
And many of our fellow citizens will pay a terrible price.
Martha Moore Hobson was one of the region’s first Certified Financial Planners. Although retired, she is an active volunteer at Oak Ridge.