Childbirth in America is deadlier for Black mothers and newborns than for whites – a difference that persists even for Black families that are wealthy, according to groundbreaking new research. The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller, Sarah Kliff and Larry Buchanan report on a new study for the National Bureau of Economic Research which, for the first time, combined income tax data with birth, death and hospitalization records to show how race and income are correlated to birth outcomes.

That approach also reveals that premature infants born to poor parents are more likely to die than those born into the richest families. Yet there is one group that doesn’t gain the same protection from being rich, the study finds: Black mothers and babies. “It suggests that the well-documented Black-white gap in infant and maternal health that’s been discussed a lot in recent years is not just explained by differences in economic circumstances,” said Maya Rossin-Slater, an economist studying health policy at Stanford and an author of the study. “It suggests it’s much more structural.”

SNAP remains among most effective anti-poverty tools
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most effective tools at fighting poverty. As congressional leaders gear up to craft the 2023 farm bill, a multi-year law that includes funding and rules for agriculture and food programs, including SNAP, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Ty Jones Cox reminds us of the vital support the program provides. 

SNAP is highly effective at reducing hunger and is a powerful anti-poverty tool, especially during times of economic downturn. SNAP reduces hunger by as much as 30 percent and is even more effective among children. Studies have shown that hunger among children fell by roughly one-third after their families received SNAP benefits for six months. …. SNAP is linked to improved outcomes for education, economic security, and self-sufficiency. When children are hungry, their performance at school suffers. SNAP is linked to improved educational attainment and higher rates of school completion. 

Southern University at forefront of agricultural innovation
Members of President Joe Biden’s administration visited Southern University on Tuesday to tout federal programs intended to boost economic development in underserved areas. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Isabella Casillas Guzman of the U.S. Small Business Administration met with students, faculty and small-business owners to discuss their initiatives and praised Southern’s position as a leader in agricultural innovation. The Advocate’s Robert Stewart reports: 

Louisiana is part of 19 projects that have been funded by the $3.1 billion federal program, including two that involve Southern University, Vilsack said. Southern is participating in a $90 million effort to reduce methane emissions and water consumption by rice farms, as well as a $20 million “industrial hemp” initiative that will develop and market hemp as a “high efficiency carbon sequestration and a climate-smart commodity crop,” according to the USDA. … “What I learned today is the future has already arrived in Louisiana,” Vilsack said.

The role of child care investment in supporting working families 
Quality early care and education is essential for Louisiana working families. It allows parents to work and ensures our youngest residents get the care they need to thrive. Yet, quality care is expensive, costing families between $8,000 and $17,000 per year depending on the amount of subsidies they receive, according to a new report from the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. In their annual survey of parents and caregivers, the report finds that state and local investments in affordable care during the pandemic have made a difference. They also found that many working families continue to struggle to make ends meet, making subsidized child care a critical component of family budgets. Continued state and local investments are essential to ensure quality early care remains available to Louisiana families:  

The state experienced some of its lowest monthly unemployment rates, with rates below 4% for much of the year. The Louisiana Legislature appropriated $84 million in new state funds toward early care and education, and leveraged one-time federal stimulus dollars to increase funding for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). These investments enabled over 28,500 in-need children and their working families to afford high-quality early care and education programs. A number of local communities also raised or dedicated new revenue for early care and education, many hoping to double their investments through the state matching funds available through the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund.

The report authors add a word of caution highlighting the need for renewed investments: 

The impending fiscal cliff from the expiring one-time federal funding threatens to leave tens of thousands of young children without care while their parents work or attend school. And this is on top of the hundreds of thousands of other children in the state who currently lack access to affordable, high quality child care.

Programming note
Join us today for the next installment of Racism: Dismantling the System speaker series, hosted by LBP, the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and other partners. Experts will discuss how medical distrust and health disparities within sickle cell disease affect Black and Brown communities.

Details: Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 3:30 pm. Click here to reserve your space for the online event. You can also view this episode on the LBP’s  Facebook page.

Number of the Day
18% – Percentage of Louisiana’s population that receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Louisiana families who rely on federal food assistance will receive an average of $164 less per month beginning in March because SNAP emergency allotments will return to pre-Covid amounts. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)