11 July 2007

The Motherhood Divide In Denver

Denver is a highly segregated city. The divide between its mostly well off Anglo and Asian populations, and its relatively less well off Hispanic, black and Native American populations can be stark.

The divide is particularly notable when looking at the characteristics of mothers who give birth in Denver by ethnicity. Consider the following statistics (all of which are percentage of births to mothers in the ethnicity stated in 2005 from Health Statistics Section, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment):

Mother Age 10-17*
Anglo: 0.9%
Asian: less than 0.5%
Hispanic: 7.8%
Black: 6.4%
Native American: 11.1%

Mother Age 18-19
Anglo: 2.2%
Asian: 1.3%
Hispanic: 10.1%
Black: 10.7%
Native American: 9.9%

Mother Age 30+
Anglo: 62.7%
Asian: 57.3%
Hispanic: 25.3%
Black: 27.4%
Native American: 29.6%

Mother Not Married
Anglo: 17.1%
Asian: 12.6%
Hispanic: 42.2%
Black: 60.6%
Native American: 66.7%

Mother Not A High School Graduate
Anglo: 6.3%
Asian: 11.6%
Hispanic: 60.3%
Black: 24.8%
Native American: 34.6%

No First Trimester Prenatal Care
Anglo: 11.5%
Asian: 17.2%
Hispanic: 36.6%
Black: 26.9%
Native American: 42.3%

Smoked During Pregnancy
Anglo: 5.9%
Asian: 4.1%
Hispanic: 5.3%
Black: 9.1%
Native American: 12.3%

*Births to mothers age 10-17 who were Denver residents without regard to ethnicity were divided as follows: Mother age 10-12: 1, Mother age 13-14: 27, Mother Age 15-17: 473.

Total number of live births to Denver resident mothers in 2005 by category: Anglo 3707, Hispanic 5035, Black 1028, Asian 372, Native American 81.

The numbers tell the tale of two very different patterns of motherhood in Denver. I don't have the cross-tabs, but it is safe to guess that there is a great deal of overlap between teen mothers, unmarried mothers, mothers who haven't graduated from high school, mothers who lack prenatal care, and mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

The divide is not absolute. It is fair to guess that one in seven or eight Anglo or Asian mothers fit the "at risk" profile, with at least one of the risk favors identified above, while perhaps 40% of mothers who are Hispanic, black or Native American are in no way "at risk" by the measures shown above.

In this post, I called it the Motherhood Divide, because more than marriage divides the "at risk" mothers from those whose prospects seem secure, but more often it is called the Marriage Gap.

While these seems like the same old bad news, it is worth remembering that this phenomena is not as old as one might think, according to this analysis from Reason magazine discussing hte national trend:

69. That is the percentage of black children born out of wedlock in 1999. The good news is that the illegitimacy ratio for blacks stopped rising in the 1990s; the bad news is that it stabilized at more than triple the illegitimacy ratio of 1960. Today, about two-thirds of all black families are headed by a single parent (usually the mother), and a majority of all black children live in fatherless households. . . .

Until the 1950s, blacks were more, rather than less, likely than whites to be married. . . .

In 1960, about 2 percent of white children were born out of wedlock; in 1999, the comparable figure was 27 percent--and the figure for whites, unlike the one for blacks, continues to grow. . . . the great engine of single-parenthood is no longer divorce, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s; it is the rising share of births to people who never marry to begin with. . . .

America's families and children may be splitting into two increasingly divergent and self-perpetuating streams--two social classes, in other words--with marriage as the dividing line. Some children would grow up in a culture where marriage is taken for granted and parents worry about sport utility vehicles and quality day care, others in a culture where marriage is a pipe dream and deadbeat dads and impoverished kids are the norm.

The Reason article speculates at length about the consequences these trends may have in the future. I've limited the quotation to the status quo and recent history, and have skipped the sticky issue of cohabitation v. single parenting v. marriage in this post.

Denver is also, like many central cities, atypical of the state or nation at large. Many middle class minorities and many working class whites don't live in central Denver. They are prone to live in the suburbs. But, Denver's divide is still worth noting.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Apropo at NewMexiKen.

Anonymous said...

The age groups don't add up to 100% (e.g., 0.9 + 2.2 + 62.7 = 65.8). Are the rest unknown?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The rest are age 20-29.