The annual State of Babies Yearbook for 2020 study was just released by non-profit Zero to Three. The big reveal? That, in the US, Black and Brown babies are often born at a disadvantage — even in wealthier states.
This is the second-annual State of Babies Yearbook, and it offers a comprehensive look at the national landscape for babies born in 2019. The early childhood experts at Zero to Three examined every US state, taking data obtained from national data sets such as the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the National Survey of Children’s Health. It then gives each state suggestions on raising its stats for better early childhood outcomes.
Zero to Three CPO Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor didn’t mince words regarding the results. “Black and Brown babies in America start at a real disadvantage no matter where they are born,” she told Parentology.
Black Babies Fare Worse
At this point in time, more than half of all infants born in the US are of color, yet they suffer from disproportionate levels of infant mortality, maternal mortality, and lack of childcare access.
“All across the country, [infants of color] are more likely to be born early, to be born into poverty, and to die before their first birthday,” Jones-Taylor explained. “The systemic racism we face every day starts even before birth, and if we have any hope of breaking this cycle, we need to take action on behalf of our babies.”
The State of Babies Yearbook 2020 results are sobering indeed. Its devastating findings include:
- Infant Mortality
On average, 6 in 1,000 babies will not survive to see their first birthday, and mortality is more than twice as high for Black infants (11.1) as it is for White infants (4.8).
Maternal mortality occurs at a rate of 17 deaths per 100,000 live births nationally, and it is more than three times higher (40.8) among Black women than White women (13.2).
The high cost of infant care is far out of reach for many, exceeding the cost of college tuition in more than half of states, and ranging between 25-89% of single parents’ median income. Further, Early Head Start, a proven program that improves parenting and child outcomes, only reaches 7% of those eligible.
Other research indicates that race counts in terms of childhood stress and poor outcomes. The Economic Policy Institute noted in 2019 that “…Black children are more likely than white children to be exposed to frightening or threatening experiences.” It linked these experiences to later academic, behavioral and health problems.
Findings Vary Widely
The Yearbook compiles nearly 60 indicators—specifically for children ages 0 to 3—to measure progress across the three policy areas: good health care, strong family structures, and positive early childhood experiences. While no state has perfect scores on all three (and won’t until US healthcare and social services are altered to be more equitable), some states perform better overall in serving its infants.
Massachusetts and Hawaii, for instance, performed very well, having better social services and programs, plus medical care in place. But in states like Mississippi and Alabama, the scores were far worse; these states have fewer services and often have voted against Medicaid expansion, restricting access to better overall care and opportunities. This lack of services hits lower-income families. And in urban areas, crowded housing and overwhelmed family services negatively impact families of color more often.
As Jones-Taylor notes, no state is perfect.
“Every state has work to do to improve outcomes for babies, toddlers, and their families. But there are steps we can take, including universal access to high-quality, affordable child care; providing paid sick days and paid family and medical leave; investing in prevention services and family-centered child welfare; and helping families meet basic needs like diapers and good nutrition,” she surmised.
Suggestions for Improvement
Investing in better health care services, expanding Medicare, and ensuring better access to programs such as Head Start are obvious options for improvement. State of Babies offers information and resources on its site for individuals to get involved and positively improve policies, state by state.
Moreover, the information compiled in the Yearbook gives other organizations a source for facts and figures which are invaluable for grant writing and queries to politicians.
Jones-Taylor speaks with urgency on the subject of racial inequity, both for infants of color and society at large.
“We cannot afford to squander the potential of a single child. We all need to do our part to invest in our babies today,” Jones-Taylor stated.