HSCN Newsletter:
Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter and stay on top of the latest news in Human Services.
More information...
 
Enter Email Address:
HSPulse
Do you see the need for Human Service workers increasing or decreasing?
Increasing
Decreasing
Not sure
Like us on Facebook

Home > Research Articles > America's large cities showed improvements on some measures of a healthy and promising start to life during the prosperous 1990s

childtrends.org

Monday, January 20, 2003

A Decade of Trends in Birth Statistics Show Some Improvements in Big Cities, Even As Urban America Continues To Lag Behind National Averages

Two New Reports on Cities, States Released Today

WASHINGTON, DC, February 20 -America's large cities showed improvements on some measures of a healthy and promising start to life during the prosperous 1990s, according to two reports released today. But the reports indicate that babies born in the nation's big cities in the 1990s continued to start life at a greater disadvantage than those born elsewhere in the U.S.

The reports, one comparing the 50 largest cities and the other showing state-by-state data, were released today by Child Trends and KIDS COUNT, an initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The documents, The Right Start City Trends: Conditions of Babies and Their Families in America's Largest Cities (1990-1998) and The Right Start State Trends: The Condition of Babies and Their Families Across the Nation (1990-1998), show trends and identify cities and states with the best and worst performance on each measure of a healthy and promising start to life. The report uses data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics

The nation's 50 largest cities as a group made substantial progress on two measures of a healthy birth from 1990 to 1998:

The percentage of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy decreased from 18 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 1998. This was the only measure on which cities outperformed the nation as a whole. (Nationally, 13 percent of births were to women who smoked during pregnancy.) The percentage of births to women who received late or no prenatal care decreased from 9 percent in 1990 to 5 percent in 1998.

However, three other measures of a healthy birth remained virtually unchanged for the nation's largest cities as a group, including:

The percentage of low-birthweight births. The percentage of preterm births. The percentage of births to teens. Nationally, there was progress on some measures and a loss of ground on others. Specifically, the nation saw the following improvements:

The percentage of births to women who received late or no prenatal care declined from 6 percent in 1990 to 4 percent in 1998.

The percentage of births to women who smoked during pregnancy declined from 18 percent in 1990 to 13 percent in 1998.

The percentage of teen births that were "repeat teen births" (births to teens who have already borne a child) declined from 24 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 1998. The percentage of births to women with less than 12 years of education declined from 24 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 1998.

The nation lost ground on the following birth measures:

The percentage of low-birthweight births increased from 7 percent in 1990 to 8 percent in 1998.

The percentage of preterm births increased from 11 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 1998.

The percentage of births to unmarried women increased from 28 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 1998.

"Conditions at birth often reflect the forces that will shape a young person's life, and children in America's larger cities still face increased risks," said Richard Wertheimer, Ph.D., senior research associate at Child Trends. "By looking at a decade's worth of quality data, we can see where the greatest progress has occurred, both across and within cities and states."

William O'Hare, Ph.D, who runs the KIDS COUNT program at the Casey Foundation, states, "This report continues the 10-year KIDS COUNT tradition of providing accurate and reliable statistical information on children. We have found that making data easily available in a style that facilitates comparisons across cities and states often stimulates discussions among community and state leaders regarding programs and policies to improve child well-being."

The variation across cities on selected measures is striking. For example, in seven of the 50 largest cities in 1998, teen births made up less than 10 percent of total births - lower than both the 50-city average of 15 percent and the national average of 13 percent. The seven cities are New York, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Honolulu, Seattle and Virginia Beach.

By contrast, in six cities -- Baltimore, Cleveland, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and St. Louis -- births to teens accounted for more than 20 percent of total births in 1998. Cities with high rates of births to teens are likely to have a high percentage of children at risk for performing poorly in school, dropping out of school, and living in less supportive family environments.

Several cities showed dramatic improvement on various measures throughout the decade. For example, Washington, D.C., while above the 50-city average on most measures in 1998, nevertheless improved on all eight measures of a healthy birth from 1990 to 1998 Detroit made considerable progress in reducing births to teens. While remaining above the 50-city average of 15 percent in 1998, Detroit still saw a drop from 24 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 1998. Looking at births to teens who already were mothers ("repeat teen births"), San Francisco saw a reduction from 21 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 1998, remaining well below the 50-city average which decreased from 27 percent to 24 percent.

The two reports detail the following measures of a healthy and promising start to life:

The percentage of births to teen mothers; The percentage of births to teen mothers who were already mothers ("repeat teen births"); The percentage of births to unmarried women; The percentage of births to women who received late or no prenatal care; The percentage of births to women who smoked during pregnancy; The percentage of births to mothers with less than 12 years of education: The percentage of low birth-weight births; and The percentage of preterm births.

Measures, such as lack of timely prenatal care and the percentage of mothers who smoked during pregnancy, reflect social conditions prior to birth that can affect the health of an infant. Other measures reported in the two documents, such as low birthweight and preterm births, reflect a baby's health status at the time of birth. Also tracked are three characteristics of the mother (marital status, age, and education) that are likely to be related to conditions that place children at risk of poor educational and other outcomes.

Child Trends, founded in 1979, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to studying children, youth, and families through data collection, analysis, and dissemination, as well as through basic research.. Its major research areas include teenage pregnancy and childbearing; the effects of welfare and poverty on children; early childhood care and education; positive youth development; and issues related to parenting, family structure, and family processes.

KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States. The initiative includes grantees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, supported by the national effort located at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD.#

To view the two reports online, complete with statistics and narratives, click here.

To order copies of the reports, call the Annie E. Casey Foundation's publication line, (410) 223-2890.