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Last Updated: 03/12/2018


Article of Interest - Statistics

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Disparities at Birth Persist in Urban Areas
Read 2003 Kid's Count Data for Michigan's Largest Cities
(PDF, 10 pages, size=267k)
Analysis by Kids Count in Michigan, September 16, 2003
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Despite improvement since 1990 in Michigan’s largest cities on some measures of a healthy and promising start to life, urban babies in 2001 continued to start life at a greater disadvantage than those born elsewhere in the state, according to the latest analysis released by Kids Count in Michigan. The Right Start: Conditions of Babies and Their Families in Michigan’s Largest Cities (1990-2001) reviewed the latest data for the state’s 35 largest cities and identified the best and worst performance on each measure of a healthy and promising start to life. The report uses data provided by the Vital Records and Health Data Development Section of the Michigan Department of Community Health.


“Birth conditions for babies reveal striking disparities between urban and non-urban areas,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, senior research associate at the Michigan League for Human Services and Kids Count in Michigan project director. “In 2001 one of every four urban babies was born to a woman without a high school education despite the dramatic declines in teen births over the 1990s.”


The state’s 35 largest cities as a group made progress on four measures of a healthy birth between 1990 and 2001:

  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy decreased by 30 percent --from 21 percent of mothers in 1990 to 14 percent in 2001. (This was the only risk measure where cities had a lower average than non- urban areas.)

  • Teen births dropped by 26 percent--from 17 to 12 percent of live births in 2001.

  • Repeat Teen Births (to teens who had already borne a child) declined by 17 percent--from 29 percent in 1990 to 24 percent in 2001.

  • Maternal education: (mothers with less than 12 years of education) improved by only 9 percent in Michigan’s urban areas, compared to 19 percent in non-urban areas. Almost a quarter (23%) of all urban births are to mothers without a high school education compared to less than a fourth (17%) in non-urban areas.

On the other four measures, maternal and infant well-being in Michigan’s urban areas improved minimally or not at all:

  • Late or No Prenatal Care did not improve for the average newborn in Michigan cities, but among non-urban babies the share receiving such care dropped by 19 percent.

  • Low-Birthweight Babies decreased hardly at all (1%) among urban infants and rose by 12 percent among non-urban infants.

  • Preterm Births declined slightly (5%) among urban newborns and rose by 12 percent among non- urban infants

  • Non-Marital Births decreased slightly (6%) among urban newborns and rose by 7 percent among non-urban infants.

“Conditions at birth reflect the circumstances of the critical early years for these children,” said Michele Corey, community advocacy director at Michigan’s Children. “By looking at these data, communities can assess areas of progress and need.”


While cities varied widely on the different measures, in general, babies born in the more affluent cities of Troy, Rochester Hills, and Farmington Hills were less likely to be born low birthweight or preterm or to a woman without a high school education than those in Pontiac, Flint or Detroit. Smoking during pregnancy reached the highest levels in the cities of Taylor, Bay City, and Lincoln Park with one of every four new mothers compared to only 2 percent of new mothers in Ann Arbor. The Right Start analysis, as well as data for Michigan’s 35 largest cities and all 83 counties, is available at the League’s website:  A more detailed analysis of these same measures by race and ethnicity will be released next winter. Kids Count in Michigan, a collaborative project of the Michigan League for Human Services and Michigan’s Children, is part of a broad national effort to measure the well-being of children at state and local levels. The project regularly collects and publishes such information to enlighten public policy and community action. Its 2003 state data book with county profiles of child well-being, is scheduled for release this fall. The state project is part of a nationwide network supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore, Maryland. The Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, as well as the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and United Ways, also provide funding for the Michigan project.


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