Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

The Michigan League for Human Services released their latest report on Maternal and Infant Well-Being in Michigan – The Right Start in Michigan and Its Counties 2011 – and the results are mixed at both the statewide and local level.  While Data Driven Detroit (D3) will be selecting out the SE MI-specific information for greater discussion on our website, I thought it important to briefly highlight trends in Detroit.

Since the report compares 2 points in time – 2000 (representing the 1998-2000 3-year average) and 2009 (representing the 2007-2009 3-year average), that is what will be reported here.  The report analyzes trends across 8 maternal and infant well-being indicators.  Three of these factors – mother’s education, late or no prenatal care, and smoking during pregnancy – have changed their definitions over the years such that comparisons are not possible.  While comparisons are not possible, it can be reported that over one-third (34.9 percent) of new mothers in Detroit had not completed high school; 16.9 percent reported smoking during pregnancy; and, 4.9 percent reported receiving late or no prenatal care.

Improvement occurred in the percentage of births to teenagers that were repeat births – down from 26.0 to 19.6 percent of all births.  The share of newborns classified as low birthweight decreased from 14.0 to 13.0 percent, and the incidence of preterm births (less than 37 weeks gestation) dropped from 17.1 to 14.6 percent.

A negative trend occurred in two areas that are highly correlated with poor outcomes stemming from low socioeconomic status – teen births and births to unmarried women.  The percentage of Detroit births attributable to teens increased from 18.2 to 20.8 percent.  Data Driven Detroit’s previous research, which you can find on our website, reported that Detroit appeared to be bucking the trend of decreasing births to teens that has been seen nationally.  In some neighborhoods teen births account for well over 1 of every 4 births.  The trend of unmarried mothers accounting for an increasing share of births is a national phenomenon. However, in Detroit unmarried mothers now account for more than 3 of every 4 births (77.8 percent), up from 70.0 percent in 2000.  Single parent households are much more likely than two-parent families to be in poverty and too many  children are growing up in households, and communities, with few, if any, positive male role models.

While indicator results vary across the state and other areas in SE Michigan, it is the “unmarried mother” variable that appears to be increasing in all areas of the State.  Michigan, as a whole, saw births to unmarried women increase from 33.7 to 40.5 percent.  Locally, Macomb County experienced the greatest increase (up 55% from 19.7 to 30.4 percent), while Oakland (up 39% from 18.6 to 25.8 percent) and out-Wayne (up 34% from 25.0 to 33.5 percent) were close behind.

D3 is in the process of receiving and analyzing Michigan birth data for 2008 and 2009.  We will be able to analyze birth outcomes at the neighborhood level in Detroit and across all communities in SE Michigan.  Please visit our website,, to keep up to date on that release and to review our previous Right Start reports for Detroit.