In America, having a baby is becoming a luxury only a few can afford

Arwa Mahdawi
Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

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Kids? In this economy?!

In news that should surprise absolutely nobody, Americans are having fewer kids. US birthrates have fallen to a 35-year low, according to new federal data. Around 3.75m babies were born in America in 2019, down 1% from the previous year. Birthrates dropped among women of basically every age and race group, but rose slightly among women in their early 40s.

The total fertility rate (which estimates the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetime) is also at a record low. American women are now projected to have about 1.71 children over their lifetimes, which is below the rate of 2.1 needed to completely replace a generation.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Americans are having fewer kids. The government makes a big song and dance about how much it loves fetuses, but it is actively hostile to parents. The US is the only OECD country without national statutory paid maternity, paternity or parental leave, for one thing. Then there’s the financial cost of simply delivering the kid. America is the most expensive place in the world to have a baby – and it may be one of the only places in the world where hospitals charge you just for holding your child. One couple found a $39.35 charge on their hospital bill for “skin-to-skin” contact after their baby was born.

Because of the Kafkaesque nature of America’s healthcare system, it’s hard to pin down how much the cost of an average birth is, but one 2013 estimate put it at around $32,093. That’s just for an uncomplicated vaginal birth, by the way. If you have a complicated pregnancy and bad (or no) insurance you can very easily find yourself getting bankrupted by the medical bills.

Once you have the child, you have to deal with astronomical childcare costs. The Atlantic notes that, since the 1990s, childcare costs have grown twice as fast as overall inflation. The average cost of a full-time childcare program is now $16,000 a year – which, in some states, is more than university tuition. Meanwhile, many millennial parents are still paying off their own student debt.

While there have been a lot of jokes about a coronavirus baby boom, experts think it is likely that the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will cause birth rates to drop further. Now, more than ever, kids are becoming a luxury only a few can afford.

Lana Del Rey engages in some ‘misogynoir’

In a rather Alison Roman-esque move the singer recently lashed out at a group of female artists, most of whom were black women. In an Instagram post, Del Rey accused Doja Cat, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Kehlani, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé of having “had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating etc”. I’m not sure exactly what Del Rey was trying to communicate as her Instagram post was sort of incomprehensible. However, it sounded a lot like she was saying that Beyoncé et al are morons who have had it easy, while Del Rey is a Very Serious Artist who has been vilified and called anti-feminist by the press for glamourizing abuse in her lyrics. After a lot of backlash, Del Rey is now insisting she’s not a racist. She’s just a Very Serious Artist who seems to have a problem with successful black women.

Speaking of Alison Roman …

She’s been placed on temporary leave by the New York Times following her disparaging comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. Kind of weird that the Times has decided to punish Roman but never seems to reprimand Brett Stephens, who regularly pontificates about things like the “disease of the Arab mind” and eugenics.

Covid-19 is killing more men than women – except for in Canada

In Quebec women make up 59.4% of confirmed coronavirus cases and 54.6% of deaths. Experts attribute this to the fact that the majority of outbreaks have occurred in long-term care homes; women make up over 75% of residents aged 85 years and older in these homes.

‘OK Wallet’ is a new TikTok insult apparently

When young men refer to young women as “dishwasher” or “sandwich maker” online, women are starting to reply: “OK wallet.” NBC explains that the idea is to show men what it’s like to objectified and reduced to your gender role. This isn’t the first time this sort of pointed role reversal has happened. In the 1960s, feminists held an “ogle-in” on Wall Street, where women cat-called men on their way to work.

Rwanda to release 50 women jailed for having abortions

The latest figures available show there were 227 women jailed for abortion in Rwanda in 2014. It’s not clear how many remain in prison.

British women bear emotional brunt of Covid-19

Six out of 10 women said they were finding it hard to stay positive day-to-day, compared with just under half of men.

Ageism in sexual violence data

A new book about the victim-blaming of women, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, notes that, for decades, “all domestic and sexual violence data we had in the UK ignored the experiences of women over the age of 60.” If you were over 60 then any sexual violence you experienced simply wasn’t included in the national statistics. In 2018 the Office of National Statistics increased the age cap to 74.

The week in Musk-iarchy

Think you get a lot of nuisance phone calls? Spare a thought for skincare consultant Lyndsay Tucker who has Elon Musk’s old phone number and regularly receives texts and calls intended for the famous entrepreneur. The 25-year-old told NPR that she gets at least three calls or texts intended for Musk a day, but her phone blows up whenever the billionaire is involved in a scandal. Which is a lot. I think Musk owes the poor woman a new phone.