Save the Children report: USA is 25th best place to be a mom

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just in time for Mother's Day, an annual ranking of the best and worst countries in which to be a mom puts the USA in 25th place, up from 31st last year.

The 13th annual State of the World's Mothers report by the Save the Children foundation, out today, examines the well-being of mothers and their children in 165 countries, based on a range of measures, including mothers' education, infant mortality and breastfeeding rates.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyWomen* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.


Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



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1. evan miller wrote:

This report notwithstanding, I’m mighty glad my mom gave birth to me in the USA and not Norway or anyplace else on earth.  As a result, I’ve enjoyed more individual liberty than the citizens of any other country.

May 8, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
2. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Two points, and two points only ...

1) If the USA is such a horrible place to be a mother, why is it that the USA is the only developped nation in the world with a raw fertility rate sufficient to generate a growing population. All the others are on a trajectory to see their populations fall by half before century’s end. Hmmm?

2) When looking at “infant mortality” why did the report ignore the immensely important fact that in the USA any birth after 20 weeks is logged as a “live birth” whilst all the others count only those after 40 weeks? Do you think such an approach might distort the infant mortality rate, given how many serious preemies don’t make it?

There are several other points I could make, but this is essentially more of the “two legs BAD, four legs GOOD” approach we’ve come to expect from leftie outfits.

May 8, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
3. Ian+ wrote:

I would argue with you on that, evan. I have no less liberty in Canada that someone living in the US. No more, but certainly no less. And my wife received employment insurance benefits for a year after our daughter was born.

May 8, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
4. Ian+ wrote:

In fact, evan, I bet your health insurance probably won’t let you pick any doctor you want, but I can. The idea that Americans have more personal freedoms than anyone else is a huge myth.

May 8, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
5. magnolia wrote:

1) If the USA is such a horrible place to be a mother, why is it that the USA is the only developped nation in the world with a raw fertility rate sufficient to generate a growing population. All the others are on a trajectory to see their populations fall by half before century’s end..”
it depends on if you count illegal immigrants as contributing to the raw fertility rate. if you do then yes, i agree but it’s numbers over quality since most of them get free health care. i attended a lecture where the speaker was saying first world countries with educated females were having fewer children overall. japan being at the top of the list in zero growth with europe close behind.

however, i’ve also read that more and more women are having children later in life as they realize their fertility won’t last forever.  so, the trend may be reversing.

May 8, 4:47 pm | [comment link]
6. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Re: Bart Hall

1) If the USA is such a horrible place to be a mother, why is it that the USA is the only developped nation in the world with a raw fertility rate sufficient to generate a growing population. All the others are on a trajectory to see their populations fall by half before century’s end. Hmmm?

1. My understanding is that there are several developed nations in the world with fertility rates greater than the U.S.A. including New Zealand, Greenland, and even France.

2. The U.S.A.‘s birth rate has dropped below replacement levels.

3. If it wasn’t for the non-Anglo (especially Hispanic), and immigrant proportion, of American society the U.S. birth rate would be far more like that of other developed countries. The Anglo population of the U.S. is shrinking, and Hispanics will be the racial majority in a few decades on current trends.

4. Surely on a Christian website we aren’t going to fall into the materialist trap of seeing measurable economic factors as the sole explanation for birth rates?

Birth rates correlate negatively to economic development, and positively to religious practice. Outside of America, most economically developed countries put in place non-user pays structures to support mothers. But they are also countries of significantly reduced religiousity than the U.S. So you can’t simply point to the fertility rate to show that the U.S. is a great place to give birth - it is likely that America’s religiousity is driving that dynamic (at least among non-Anglos).

Apply a ‘religious practice’ screen to the American birthrate and you’ll probably, I suspect, find that the birth rate among secular and non-religious Americans who are second generation or more is very, very comparable to other developed countries.

6. In other words, creating structures to support a mother does not have much impact on birth rates. Rates of religious practice do. So arguing from birth rates to ‘America’s a great place to have a child’ is the same kind of mythmaking that the rest of us expect from Americans. It’s comparing apples with oranges to get a result you’ve already decided is true on other grounds.

It’s like the American overexaggeration of your personal liberties compared to the rest of us. Like Ian+, I think the average citizen in Australia would experience more liberty in practice than the average American. Not just a freedom in law, but also the resources and social structures that enable more people to take up those legal freedoms and use them constructively.

May 8, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
7. NoVA Scout wrote:

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in countries where one detects no disadvantage in terms of individual liberties and detects considerable advantages in terms of the ease of access and quality of general health care.  I think, on balance, I would prefer having an exotic, complex procedure done in the US than anywhere else in the world (think Mayo or Cleveland Clinic, or HD Anderson in Houston), but for general medical care, virtually any country in Western Europe, Scandinavia or Canada probably would provide me at least the same quality and ease of access and would do so, if I were a citizen of that country, at a very reasonable cost.

May 8, 10:45 pm | [comment link]
8. evan miller wrote:

Ian+ and Mark,

I think you all confuse liberty with provision of services.  Personally, I prefer the liberties I enjoy as a US citizen to the government granted largess of the rest of the western world.  I particularly cherish the right to self-defense that we, almost exclusively, enjoy.  What governments give, they can take away.  Our Constitution recognizes that our unalienable rights are God-given, and not the gift, to be given or witheld, of any government.

May 9, 8:12 am | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:

RE: “Like Ian+, I think the average citizen in Australia would experience more liberty in practice than the average American. Not just a freedom in law, but also the resources and social structures that enable more people to take up those legal freedoms and use them constructively.”

“resources and social structures”—yup—we’re not defining “liberty” in the same way at all.

The State providing “resources and social structures” is something that I want *less of* and that gives me *less* liberty, by my definition.

May 9, 8:32 am | [comment link]
10. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Re: evan miller

Sure, the right to carry guns is fairly unique to America, and if that really matters to you, then that is a definite plus.  As we canvassed last time this came up, the rest of us value there being a lot less guns in circulation, and most of those in the hands of those to whom God has entrusted the sword (Rom 13:1-7). We think that right to bear arms that you have in your constitution by way of ammendment is not God given - certainly it is never said to be so in either Scripture or mainstream Christian thinking of over two thousand years that I am aware . So it’s not much of a selling point to us.

While your constitution recognises all sorts of genuinely good things, in practice it is subject to the judges who interpret it. I’m not confident that America’s trajectory is towards the maintenance of genuine liberty. And while your constitution explicitly recognises that rights are inalienable and not the gift of government, that belief is not unique to the U.S. but is part of the common legal heritage of those countries descended from the U.K. It may be more implicit in our traditions, but the same DNA is in our legal systems as well.

Re: Sarah

No, we’re defining ‘liberty’ basically the same, I probably would have been clearer if I had swapped ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ in the bit you quoted. One of my points is that at the legal level there are not a lot of liberties you enjoy in the U.S. that are not enjoyed in Australia.

The other point wasn’t simply to do with largess (‘resources’), it was to do with intelligent social policies (‘social structures’) and good social practices. Australia, last time I checked, rates better than the U.S. on international rankings of ease of doing business here - the regulatory framework is less onerous, it is easier to start a business, hire and fire people, associated costs of hiring are lower and the like. And yet, at the same time, workers enjoy more protections. We avoided the worst of the global downturn because Australia had minimal debt and because there were sensible regulations on our banks that were policed. Our system of compulsory voting tends to encourage the parties to move to the centre of where the Australian populace is, rather than to the margins to motivate the core base to get out and vote. That means policies that, overall, reflect mainstream opinion (with some exceptions such as capital punishment) and tend towards pragmatic effectiveness over philosophical purity. We tend not to get deadlock, we tend not to have policies imposed on the majority by an activist minority, and we seem to be (from my impression from the internet) less scared of our government than many Americans are of theirs. I think it is easier to get elected to our highest offices without being personally wealthy, or without being as indebted to wealthy donors. Overall, I think that means we enjoy more freedom in practice - more freedom from government debt, from regulation, from ineffective government, from policies that stiffle business, from a tendency towards plutocracy.

Marriage is also doing better with us than in the United States, with more people getting married, marriage not collapsing as much in particular demographic groups, and fewer children born out of wedlock (in fact the arrival of the first child appears to be a catalyst for many Australians to get married - marriage is still seen strongly to be connected to childraising). We also have a higher proportion of men going to university and graduating than the U.S. (although the gender imbalance is also towards women in Australia as well).

At the same time, it’s true, our government offers more ‘largess’ than the States. We’ll disagree on this point, but my observation is that those policies help and enlarge our middle class - the key to a Western democracy and economy - by making it easier for those in the economic band just under it (who we call ‘aspirational voters’) to move their children into the middle class, and helping those in the middle class to remain in it (it also could help those at the very bottom, but they are rarely helped by mere ‘largess’). As I read the data, America’s middle class seems likely to continue to shrink into the future.

Australians enjoy the same legal liberties on the whole as Americans. But I think more of us Australians have the ability to access those legal liberties in practice in a way that enables us to pursue the flourishing of our lives and those of our children. That’s partly social policy, partly social practice, partly largess that has the effect of strengthening the middle class.

May 9, 9:58 am | [comment link]
11. Sarah wrote:

Hi Mark—again—I’m not interested in the government offering more “largess”.  When they do so they take from individual citizens, since nothing comes from the government without stripping it from private citizens and redistributing it.  Nor does the government need to “strengthen” the middle class and their intrusive and meddling efforts to do so cause *me* to be less free and have less liberty.

So no, we’re not defining “liberty” in the same way at all. 

Regarding America’s middle class—it will certainly continue to shrink as long as the State continues to expand its collectivist role.  On that we can agree.

Should we elect those interested in adhering to the Constitution, then we’ll have the private property rights, individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise that will yield me, Sarah, greater “liberty” as US political conservatives define liberty and freedom.

May 9, 10:11 am | [comment link]
12. Sarah wrote:

RE: “the rest of us value there being a lot less guns in circulation . . . So it’s not much of a selling point to us.”

Right.  Again, we’re not talking about the same “liberty” or “freedom” at all. 

RE: “I’m not confident that America’s trajectory is towards the maintenance of genuine liberty.”

Well, defining “liberty” according to the definition that I, Bart, and Evan are using, you’re right.  We’ll see in the 2012 elections whether we can bend that trajectory back to liberty—again, using the definitions that I, Bart, and Evan are using, by electing people who are interested in adhering to their sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution and its values.

May 9, 10:15 am | [comment link]
13. Formerly Marion R. wrote:

“Birth rates correlate negatively with economic development.”

Not by any sane definition of development.  If we polled women around the world if they would like to be rich enough to have a big family, what do you think most would say?  Clue #1: what childbearing behavior is found in the richest towns in the US?

May 9, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
14. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Re: Formerly Marion R.

If you look at any list of countries that are ranked in order of fertility, you’ll find the less economically developed countries at the top, the most at the bottom. If you map a country’s fertility over time you’ll find it drops as its economy develops. There are some outliers and anomalies to the pattern, but that’s the basic pattern. I don’t think there’s even any serious debate that pattern exists.

May 9, 6:57 pm | [comment link]
15. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Re: Sarah

RE: “the rest of us value there being a lot less guns in circulation . . . So it’s not much of a selling point to us.”

Right.  Again, we’re not talking about the same “liberty” or “freedom” at all.

At that point, yes. As I clearly indicated. If you for you ‘liberty’ simply is the right to bear arms, and not just one element of your view of your liberty, then your view of liberty is truly your own. It isn’t found in Scripture, nor in the mainstream Christian tradition.

  Well, defining “liberty” according to the definition that I, Bart, and Evan are using, you’re right.  We’ll see in the 2012 elections whether we can bend that trajectory back to liberty—again, using the definitions that I, Bart, and Evan are using, by electing people who are interested in adhering to their sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution and its values.

And that was the same sense I was using it there. My view, is that you might win the coming election (although the bookmakers don’t think so - I hope they’re wrong) but you are going to lose those liberties in the long term. Orthodox Christianity is declining. And the polarization of your society has led to many of those who are not Christian to be strongly anti-Christian. They dominate the institutions of social power in your society, even though they have a much lower birth rate. Peter Berger’s description that if Indian is the most religious country in the world, and Sweden is the least, then the U.S. is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes rings true. And doesn’t bode well for your liberties. My best guess is that your constitution will become more and more of a wax nose into the future. Inevitably your legal framework will reflect your culture, constitution notwithstanding, and you are losing your culture from the top and the bottom simultaneously and it’s working towards the centre.

Hi Mark—again—I’m not interested in the government offering more “largess”.  When they do so they take from individual citizens, since nothing comes from the government without stripping it from private citizens and redistributing it.  Nor does the government need to “strengthen” the middle class and their intrusive and meddling efforts to do so cause *me* to be less free and have less liberty.

So no, we’re not defining “liberty” in the same way at all.

Yes, whenever government acts someone’s freedom to act differently is reduced. But as I’m *fairly* sure you are not a libertarian, don’t go pushing arguments that you and I both know are only half the story at best.

Freedom is not ‘freedom from taxes’ but ‘no taxation without representation’. Adherence to a particular philosophy is not ‘freedom’. The Australian governments, overall, institute the taxes, and spend them on the kind of things, that the Australian people want. If either side of politics moves too far out of the middle on that question it looses power. I would have thought that we could agree that that was ‘freedom’. You mightn’t agree with how we are using our freedom, but it is genuine freedom - an accountable government whose policies reflect mainstream opinion of the populace rather than its political base.

If the way we spend our largess is hurting the middle class as you suggest, then you need to find another explanation as to why our middle class is strong and appears to be strengthening, while yours is weakening. There must be another factor at work, and it has to be very powerful to overcome that negative force on our middle class. I’m open to that possibility - but I struggle to see what it is. Our social practices are (relatively) good, but I don’t think they are *that* good.

I’ll agree that the way you spend your largess does help destroy the middle class - your progressives spend it in order to change society towards their ideal, an ideal that has little place for a middle class. But that doesn’t mean that all government spending has to do that, unless you’ve already decided that on matter of principle and empirical data is irrelevant.

But really? The overwhelming majority of us don’t want guns around, and so our government restricts gun ownership (doesn’t ban it, restricts it). The overwhelming majority want the taxes and spending we have and so the government follows that. And you say that that is antithetical view of freedom from what you have?

May 9, 7:48 pm | [comment link]
16. Formerly Marion R. wrote:

Mark,

I am as certain as you are that what you say is true, but you miss my point.

If you plot obesity against birthrates*, the latter also drops with the former, but in that case no one uses the correlation to imply that there is something dysfunctional about birthrates above the replacement rate.

Again, what is “economic development”? Doesn’t the term imply something about social good that is distinct from, say, “increase in GDP”, or “increase in kilocalories per hectare” or “increase in graduates in STEM fields”?

I also agree that most women given the choice between 1 glorious child, a small apartment, and standard but modest healthcare versus 8 children, 6 of whom die, a hovel in a mosquito-infested swamp and total absence of healtchcare, will choose the former over the latter. I don’t think there’s even any serious debate that pattern exists.

My point is this: if you instead offer these women a large home, full grocery aisles, and superior healthcare for them, their children, and grandchildren, you will suddenly find these women having 3, 4, even 5 children.

 

*which, by the way, are distinct from fertility rates in ways fundamentally important to followers of Christ

May 9, 8:27 pm | [comment link]
17. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Hi Formerly Marion R.,

I think we might be talking at cross purposes a bit. ‘economic development’ and the like are the terms we have from our society, and I tend to dislike redefining them away from common usage. I’d make your point, but I wouldn’t try and redefine the language of ‘economic development’ to do it. I’d bring in other issues and terminology to say ‘pursuit of mammon shouldn’t be the master’.

I’m not interested in birthrates dropping below replacement levels either, nor do I think birthrates above replacement levels are dysfunctional.

My point is this: if you instead offer these women a large home, full grocery aisles, and superior healthcare for them, their children, and grandchildren, you will suddenly find these women having 3, 4, even 5 children.

That was the most stimulating thing said in this thread for me. Eventually I tracked this down: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/diversity/14havingchild.pdf

For Australia at least, your observation doesn’t seem to hold. Those women with the lowest personal income have the most children, those with the highest personal income have the least. No surprises there - the former will include a lot of full time mums, the latter are holding the kind of jobs that require someone to put all their energy and time into career advancement and no time off for maternity leave.

But there is pretty well no correlation between household income and size of family in Australia it seems. Much the same rate of child births and number of child births as you go up and down income for a household. So Australians don’t have more children as their family income increases, nor do they have less.

My own impression, is that in Australia like America, it correlates to religious practice not wealth. Few secular Australians have families of four or more children. And significantly more have two children rather than three. It is very rare to have a Christian couple choose to be childless, or choose to have just one child. Three seems quite common, more than three not exceptional. And that seems to hold true irrespective of household income.

May 9, 8:56 pm | [comment link]
18. Sarah wrote:

RE: “If you for you ‘liberty’ simply is the right to bear arms, and not just one element of your view of your liberty . . . “

Well as I’ve made clear my view of liberty—since we’re discussing it—are those things spelled out in our US Constitution.

RE: “It isn’t found in Scripture, nor in the mainstream Christian tradition.”

Not certain why you bring up a red herring—no need to really, unless you’re just being tawdry deliberately.  As is obvious, we’re not speaking of liberty for *Christians* because as we both know, one can be Truly Free and in chains in prison, as a Christian.  And quite obviously you didn’t begin by speaking about Christian liberty in your initial comment.  So trying to drag in “Christian tradition” really looks like a desperate attempt to change the subject.

RE: “Yes, whenever government acts someone’s freedom to act differently is reduced.”

Yup.

RE: “But as I’m *fairly* sure you are not a libertarian . . . “

Not certain what wishing to adhere to the Constitution has to do with being a libertarian—another red herring.

RE: “Freedom is not ‘freedom from taxes’ but ‘no taxation without representation’.”

Um no.  Let me say it again.  The definition of freedom that I, Bart, and Evan are speaking of—the one you’re not—is the one having to do with the US Constitution.  Which is not about “no taxation without representation” but which in fact *limits* the efforts of the State and the use of tax dollars to certain spheres and specific activities.

RE: “Adherence to a particular philosophy is not ‘freedom’.”

Well you’re certainly asserting that. ; > )

RE: “I would have thought that we could agree that that was ‘freedom’.”

Nope, we can’t.  I’ve already defined the word liberty and freedom for you several times now, and it’s a definition that a number of us are using on this thread.

So far, you’ve merely demonstrated my point: we’re not defining “liberty” in the same way at all.

That fact being recognized and demonstrated on this very thread, it stands to reason that conservative Americans—who wish for liberty as *they* define it, not as Baddeley wishes to define it—are going to happily continue to believe and publicly assert that we have more liberty than those of other countries.

None of this is particularly new, or different, or surprising, although it’s clear that it is something that Baddeley wishes to deny.

May 9, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
19. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Sarah,

RE: “It isn’t found in Scripture, nor in the mainstream Christian tradition.”

Not certain why you bring up a red herring—no need to really, unless you’re just being tawdry deliberately.  As is obvious, we’re not speaking of liberty for *Christians* because as we both know, one can be Truly Free and in chains in prison, as a Christian.  And quite obviously you didn’t begin by speaking about Christian liberty in your initial comment.  So trying to drag in “Christian tradition” really looks like a desperate attempt to change the subject.

Do you actually spend time reading the thread before you make these kind of accusations or is playing the man just your instinctive response once a thread discussion goes more than two rounds?

evan millar introduced the issue of America’s consitutional rights as being God-given at #8. The God-givenness of these liberties hadn’t been part of his initial comment. No-one felt the need to accuse him of bringing in a red herring, being tawdry deliberately, or being guilty of a desperate attempt to change the subject when he introduced the idea of these liberties being God-given.

But no surprises you jump at the chance to do those things when you think someone else has brought a hitherto unstated theological point into the thread. That’s your form.

I responded to evan millar at #10 to point out that an assertion that the right to carry weapons is ‘God given’ has no basis in Scripture or Christian ethical thinking for 2000 years. It wasn’t tawdry, it wasn’t raising a red herring, it wasn’t a desperate attempt to change the subject. It was a response to evan millar’s claim that that particular constitutional right is ‘God given’ as I know that he knows that such claims can only be made on the basis of God’s revelation.

You continued that gun-bearing part of the argument, I restated my point to you. No change of subject, no introduction of the issue of Christian liberty - a completely different issue that exists nowhere in my words in this thread. The issue was always that neither Scripture nor Christian ethical teaching has ever defined a human being’s social rights to include a right to bear arms.

I know apologies are as rare as hen’s teeth from you, and churlishness is pretty well typical, but you were completely offbase with your accusations.

As for the rest of your last comment, it’s both right and meaningless at the same time. You’ve effectively made ‘freedom’ and the ‘U.S. constitution’ completely self-referential to each other. Freedom simply is whatever the U.S. constitution says. Whatever the U.S. constitution says simply is what freedom is. By definition only the U.S. has the U.S. constitution, so only the U.S. is ‘free’. Q.E.D.

Rhetorically effective, and intellectually pyrrhic.

I don’t think the framers of the U.S. constitution thought they were creating the concept of freedom in that way. I think they were setting up a constitution that would help preserve and strengthen a concept of freedom that they had prior to the constitution. That means you can’t simply appeal to the constitution to explain what freedom *is*. The constitution seeks to serve freedom, not contain it within itself. Freedom is bigger than the U.S. constitution. Freedom is not a merely American thing. Freedom is genuinely God given to the whole human race - most of which do not have the U.S. constitution.

The closest place you come to defining liberty for you (to say you offered a definition several times is just hyperbole) is here:

the private property rights, individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise that will yield me, Sarah, greater “liberty” as US political conservatives define liberty and freedom.

What’s missing in your list is any strong notion of democratic freedom there - of government by the people for the people. That’s disappointing, but I suppose American liberalism and conservativism must both end up at least somewhat non-democratic in the current context. American liberals have about 15% of the American populace, conservatives about 20-25%. So for either of you to have your view of ‘liberty’ enshrined in America, it can only be by getting that philosophy in when it is not shared by the majority of Americans.

Hence my view of ‘freedom’, which I think will be agreed to by many of those Americans who subscribe to neither liberalism nor conservativism - i.e. many of the majority. Freedom is to have a government that is by the people and for the people, and whose policies roughly align with the will of the majority, and not with its political, minority, base. To the degree the U.S. constitution serves that end it serves freedom for the U.S. To the degree it hinders it, it does not. A free people is a people that is not subject to an authority that is not accountable to them.

And my view of ‘liberties’ are the same as yours - they are fundamentally negative. They are rights that cannot be infringed upon, the government neither grants them, nor can take them away.

May 9, 11:51 pm | [comment link]
20. The_Elves wrote:

[We wish to remind commenters to stick to the thread topic and address the issues rather than the characteristics of other commenters.  Please also remember that Christians can take a range of views on political matters.  Future personal or ad hominem comments will result in complete removal of the offending comment and temporary loss of commenting privileges - thanks - Elf]

May 10, 5:49 am | [comment link]
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