US Birth Rate Falls 4% in 2020 across All Age Groups, including a 7.8% Decline among Teens

In 2020, the world’s first year of living dangerously with Covid, a smaller share of Americans had children than in the year prior. Most of this birth rate fall was part of the ongoing trend toward decline that has been underway since 2007 (December 2007 saw the start of the Great Recession, which ended in June 2009).

Because the pandemic started in March 2020, the only month in which children born in 2020 were conceived during the pandemic was December (children conceived in April 2020 = born in 2021), though decisions around termination of pregnancies conceived before March may have been affected by the pandemic as well. Potential parents’ choices around procreation over the rest of 2020 and beyond will only be fully apparent when we see the birth data for 2021.

The overall birth rate fell from 58.3 births per fertile woman (age 15-44) in 2019 to 56 in 2020, a decline of 4%. Since 2007, the birth rate among US women overall has fallen 19.2%.

Births to teens (age 15-19) fell from 16.7 in 2019 to 15.4 in 2020, a decline of 7.8%. This seems likely to have been affected by both increased use of contraception and diminished social contact due to quarantines in March 2020. Since 2007, the birth rate among US teens 15-19 has fallen 62.9%, due in major part to the availability of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARCs). This links to an increased ability among teens to complete high school and establish at work (high school graduation rates increased by 7 percentage points, from 79% to 86%, between 2010 and 2019, per the National Center for Education Statistics – further data yet to be released).

Rates to non-teens decreased across the board between 2019 and 2020, as follows: The birthrate for women 20-24 declined 5.4%; the rate for women 25-29 declined 3.7%; for women 30-34 it was 3.5%; for women 35-39, 1.9%; and for women 40-44 the rate declined 1.7% between 2019 and 2020. Of these rates, all had been falling previously except those for women 35-39 and 40-44.

Longer term, between 2007 and 2020, the birthrates for teens (as noted above) declined 62.9%. For women 20-24 the rate declined 40.2%; the rate for women 25-29 declined 23.6%; for women 30-34 it was 5.6%; for women 35-39, the birth rate rose 8.8%; and for women 40-44 the rate rose 22.9%. This suggests an ongoing pattern of delayed childbearing as well as what may prove to be an increase in the proportion of women (and men) remaining childfree. Women who refrain from having children early on may still raise the same number of children if they start later, but we won’t know the overall ripple effect of delay on individuals’ total fertility until those in their teens and 20s in 2007 and after reach their mid 40s. Delay will also affect individuals’ education, workforce-participation and earning levels.

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Apparition of Splendor: Marianne Moore Performing Democracy through Celebrity, 1952-1970

Happy to share a quick introduction to my new book – out in 2021 from U Delaware Press/Rutgers UP. Link to Rosenbach Book Talk.

Until recently, the 53 poems of Marianne Moore’s last two decades (23 published in the New Yorker) have been largely ignored by critics. Apparition of Splendor examines them as a distinct set, exploring the wide range of issues they engage with or raise, offering in-depth readings of many and arguing that the later work is interesting and rich – and worthy of further study.

MM’s Collected Poems won 3 major prizes* in one year (1952) and she became well known as a “prize winner.” In this period, Moore created a celebrity performance persona, which often involved her crossdressing as George Washington. Her work appeared in print in venues of all brow levels as did many stories about her, and she appeared widely—at readings, at events and on TV and on radio, engaging and entertaining her enormous audience of fans. 

[*The Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize.]

Moore began her poetic career in the 19-teens and twenties as among the “highest” of “high moderns” (read: pretty obscure to the general reading public). But ever since those early days, she had already been evolving her work to make it more accessible, to a wider audience – through emotion and humor. She became widely known during WW2 as a patriotic poet, through poems like “What Are Years?” and “In Distrust of Merits.”

In the postwar context of new, democratizing mass media and a heightened celebrity culture that crossed classes and tastes, Moore presented thought-provoking material in new and entertaining ways in order to engage and amuse audiences of all brow levels, in a range of popular journals. Her readers might reflect on this material or not, to the extent they preferred, but all would confront difference in some form in engaging with Moore and her poetry and learn something about democracy and diversity from that encounter.

Whereas her early poems enacted authority through an elite position even as they questioned the hierarchies that position rested upon, her later poems continued that questioning from a popular position that allowed her to advance a democratic agenda through a performance that combined comedy with serious cultural reflection, often on issues of equity and access.

Among the topics touched on in AOS:  

Moore’s comedic performance / persona

•her democratic / anti-racist poetry

•her habitual ekphrases

•her inclusive poetry of current events & shared culture

•her celebrity activism

•her cross-brow / high-low poetry

•her modeling nonconformist sexuality 

•her poetry’s relation to younger contemporaries’

•the dialogue among her poems

•her many poems about aging, death & legacy

•her “reveal and veil” presence in poems

•her work’s dialogues with Blake and others

•her occasional poetry – and later readers

•the evolution of her poetics over decades

•the role of shape and form (literal images)

•her modeling elderly female authority

•her habits of revision and omission

•and more!

Photo by Esther Bubley, 1953, appeared in Life Magazine as part of a story on Moore’s amusingly incongruous persona. Note the tools/weaponry at right.
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Jobs for Men but Not for Women?

First published in The Nation (Dec. 14, 2021): LINK

Though sex-based discrimination is no longer legal, it still structures American employment. Passing the Build Back Better bill could finally change that.

Is sex discrimination in employment illegal? Congress isn’t sure. It enacted a Jobs for Men bill; however, it’s still waffling on the Jobs for Women follow-up. The nation knows we need the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s improved roads, bridges, green tech, and broadband services—and (coincidentally?) the hundreds of thousands of good jobs these things require will largely go to men, in the current work scheme. 

But some aren’t sure we need the kind of infrastructure support embedded (along with other programs) in the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, which both creates a million-plus well-paid care jobs (largely filled by women initially) and allows the mothers of the kids newly in care to take jobs in all fields. In a post-BBB world, those fields could include infrastructure jobs, from which women were long excluded—largely because of lack of child care, which kept mothers’ from working full-time. Likewise, if child care is well-paid, it can attract male workers. BBB will destabilize the gendered work- and wage-assignment system currently weighing us down.

…. MORE

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State of Misogyny: Texas 2021

[Houston Chronicle, 9/23/21] Texas’s new abortion law has captured national headlines, but the sad fact is that, after years of chipping away, Texas was already tied for 47th nationally in women’s equality. Real change will mean not just ending this ban, but the attitudes behind it. Texans can use this moment to do more than stop the slide. Time to elect leaders who can envision a whole new trajectory and build a thriving economy of care.

Misogyny — a Greek word that means contempt for women — is an economic strategy as well as a feeling. Denial of women’s rights long ensured that they do much essential work for free and without representation. That includes bearing and rearing the next generation of workers. Currently, the economic model here is one of desperation, with misogyny as the linchpin. But having an economy that rewards rather than exploits care would generate both prosperity and well-being for all.

Quick overview of the shameful scene: Through gender and racial bias, Harris County full-time working women’s wages have long been through the floor, with white women making 70 cents on the dollar compared to white men in 2019, black women 45 cents and Hispanic women 37.5 cents. Part-time workers and those who are undocumented make even less. Texas ranks 50th in its percentage of uninsured adults (which is correlated with  high maternal mortality among many other health shortfalls); the foster care system (where many unplanned children end up) is awful; and Texas ranks 43rd in educational investment per student. Forget adequate affordable child care to allow moms to work. Low taxes, low services — no surprise!

When businesses enjoy low tax rates, the government doesn’t adequately support children, or sick and elderly Texans. Unpaid or low-paid women — the default care infrastructure — bear the brunt of the cleanup work to fill the gaps, though they can only do a part of what’s needed. All this creates female poverty rates 44 percent higher than those of males, leaving women more vulnerable to domestic violence.

The relationship of the state to its female population is itself a form of domestic abuse. If Texas men don’t really dislike Texas women that much, it’s time to speak up, lads!

In spite of these realities, over the past 173 years American women have made gains — in status, education and economic independence. Those gains can partly be attributed to greater control over their own fertility. Notably, it was through a suit against a Texas case that Roe v. Wade improved the options of women across the nation. Ability to plan when and if to have children allows women to complete their schooling and move up in their careers — growing the workforce and the knowledge base. It lets them better support their kids when they have them and gives them civic voice.

This has much improved U.S. productivity as women buoy the GDP and spend their earnings. But some dislike the change. Allowing the so-called “Texas Taliban” to break that circuit of societal prosperity undermines the whole economy, while furthering the political ambitions of a few.

The abortion ban was only one among a slew of these kinds of bills. The 87th Legislature expanded gun access (more violence against women), reduced voter rights (cutting access to elect women) and persists in its anti-male-to-female transgender efforts (punishing people who choose to identify as women). With these the Legislature has carved a new rock bottom for misogyny, adding threats of suit to anyone who protests.

Will Texans fall for the bounty threats and stay silent, or will we stand up for Texas women? Is there hope for a different state?

Definitely. It’s because change is underway that these new clampdown laws have been enacted. But it won’t happen on its own. It will take strategy, pressure from all sides and a massive movement. The goal shouldn’t be a return to the old status quo: a Texas economy of care could lead the nation.

The biggest allies for change should be in the business world since this ban’s bad for the bottom line. So where are the employers decrying this law? When the courts enforced Roe v. Wade, many ostensibly “pro-women” businesses could avoid making a stand that offended the anti-choice leadership, and their largely elderly voter base. That abortion calculus has cratered, and employers must consider their workforce and their customers. Will working women stick around in Texas for random vigilante suits against whomever, topped off by bullying harassment at the polls? Will the business infrastructure survive if the courts, already backed up by COVID, are swamped by the $10,000 per suit bait?

Texas depends on streams of non-native workers, from states that invest more in education, to fill skilled jobs. In Harris County, 54 percent of workers with college degrees, under 40, born out of state are women. Given the darkening scene, many will leave, and fewer people will choose to relocate here. There are many good jobs elsewhere, in states with less misogyny, more functional electric grids and fewer hurricanes. Native Texans will also exit if the state they love won’t love them back.

And of course, there will be Texas boycotts. Nationally, per Gallup, 80 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal — either in all cases (32 percent), or with some restrictions (48 percent). But the new law disallows all abortions after the first six weeks, a period of time in which many women don’t even know they are pregnant, with no exceptions. This “concern” for fetuses is seconded by substandard care for the babies that result.

This unconstitutional misogyny will magnify poverty in a state that is already ranked the 12th poorest in America. Those unable to travel will be most affected, forced to find whatever work they can — in kitchens or brothels — to feed expanded families. But the evidence of women’s low status will cast a pall on everyone.

Cheap workers may be part of the goal of these policies, but the major aim of the ban seems to be drawing anti-abortion primary voters. This time, pro-choice voters will flock to the polls as well. If candidates run not just on ending the abortion ban but on uprooting the misogyny and building a robust care infrastructure, this moment can incite transformative change that will benefit all.

Texans — male and female, young and old, Democrat and Republican, workers and employers — who believe women should control their own fertility must speak out against the misogyny and its hugely negative ripple effects. Stand up for Texas women: Bans off our bodies! Silence would be the real crime here.

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UH IRWGS Pandemic Gender Snapshot # 7 – Houston/Harris County

UH IRWGS PANDEMIC GENDER SNAPSHOT #7 – December 22, 2020[2]

The trends continue, in PGS #10 – published Nov. 29, 2021: LINK

Cross-posted from UH IRWGS website: https://uh.edu/class/ws/research/

Tracking Covid-19 fatality data by gender, race/ethnicity and age.

Though vaccines are now being delivered to health workers and the most vulnerable elderly, fatalities continue in Houston/Harris County (H/HC). While we feel optimistic, masking and distancing remain key to getting through what we can hope will be the final phase of the pandemic. 
 
Between October 2 & December 1, 2020, 536 Covid-19 deaths were reported in H/HC, raising the count to 2439 (945 women and 1494 men—61.3%/38.7%).[3]  (All data are provisional and do not include undiagnosed Covid-19 deaths, or deaths with certificate not finalized.) The lag time for death certification in this data was roughly two months overall (see appendix). National and local daily mortality reports are based on death certificates, which take time to process, so the reports are always a substantial undercount.
 
Between the last Snapshot on Oct. 1 data and this report based on Dec. 1 data, the gender, race/ethnicity and age differentials in Covid-19 mortality in H/HC have continued marked. Figure 1 provides a H/HC Covid-19 mortality rate calculation by gender and race/ethnicity based on 2020 reported deaths to date compared to the adult population breakdown of Harris County.[4]


Figure 1 Adults = Those 20 and over in the Harris County Population (per 2019 ACS). Mortality data from Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health.

People of color, particularly men of color, have borne the brunt of the losses. Figure 2 presents the specific numbers of reported H/HC Covid-19 deaths by gender, race/ethnicity and age.

Figure 2   HHD – 1438 | HCPH– 1001 Per HHD & HCPH data for Dec. 1, 2020.

As of Dec. 1, reported deaths by group included: Asian 118 (73m; 45f); Black 470 (262m; 208f); Hispanic 1185 (765m; 420f); White 583 (337m; 246f); Other/Unknown 83 (57m; 26f). The divisions in health revealed here along lines of class and race/ethnicity (often linked in the US) indicate the need for a more equitable state and national health system. One way of addressing this in Texas could begin as early as this Spring 2021 with expanded access to Medicaid through the ACA. Such a system would return tax dollars to Texans that they are already paying (to effectively fund health care in other states), with 90% of costs covered federally. The remaining 10% would be covered by the rise in state tax dollars collected on the new funds brought into the state and spent at Texas businesses. The State Legislature could pass such expansion in the 2021 session. 

The adult population of Houston/Harris County (20+) (per ACS 2019) breaks out by Gender & Race/Ethnicity thus: 
Male: 7.9% NH Asian; 17.6% NH Black; 41.8% Hispanic; 32.7% NH White
Female: 8.2% NH Asian; 20.5% NH Black; 38.9% Hispanic; 32.4% NH White 
Though the documentation of infections does not reliably report race/ethnicity,[5] so we cannot track infection equity or correlate infection with death rates here, death certificates do document race/ethnicity, fairly consistently. (However, Harris County has increasingly listed race/ethnicity as Unknown [7.8% on Sept. 1, 1.6% at mid-July; COH HD R/E Unknown is 0.4%][6] Designations as Unknown Race were found by a Washington PostSpecial Report to more often involve people of color than whites). Figure 3 portrays the adult (20+) Covid-19 mortality rate relative to the presence of each group in the full H/HC population, regardless of gender. Since gender is a major determiner of Covid-19 outcomes, Figure 1 gives a fuller portrait of the effects here.

Figure 3  *Adults = 20 and over in the Harris County population (per 2019 ACS). Mortality Data per Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health. 

Figure 4 charts the deaths over months by race/ethnicity. The rise in deaths in July (a ripple effect of the May opening) affected all groups, but disproportionately.[7]Though Hispanics make up 40.4% of the adult population, they made up 54.9% of the total Covid-19 deaths in July (as reported to date). Whites comprised 23.8% of the dead, but 32.5% of the population, so they were disproportionately low. Given that the best outcome would be to share low numbers across all groups, there is no “correct number” of deaths for any group. Blacks made up 18.1% of the dead which is roughly parallel to their 19.1% of the population, but If the number of Black deaths were proportionate with the number of White deaths in July (225) they would number 132, instead of the actual 171. Thus, Black deaths are also disproportionately high compared to Whites, and Hispanics are even more so. 

Figure 4  * Per Houston Health Department & Harris County Public Health data for Dec. 1, 2020.

RACE/ETHNICITY ANALYSES
Figure 1 indicates that Hispanic men are dying of Covid-19 at a rate 78% higher than that of White men, double that of Asian men, and 24% higher than that of Black men; while Black men have died at a rate more than 44% higher than White men and 61% higher than Asian men, per reports to date.

Differences are in part attributable to the combination of historical bias creating unequal access to health care; doctors when accessed treating people of color less aggressively; which has led historically to higher incidence of underlying conditions. In addition, those with higher rates of frontline employment and dense living situations face elevated infection rates. 

As a result of frontline employment, relatively large numbers of young people are included in the Hispanic and Black death tolls, whereas that is not the case among Whites and Asians. Those who can work at home are not as likely to be infected. Where 31.9% of Hispanic and 25.6% of Black male deaths were to men 59 and underthis was true for only 13.7% of White and 10.9% of Asian male deaths. Likewise, where 25.7% of Hispanic and 18.8% of Black female deaths were to women 59 and under, this was true for only 11.4% of White and 6.7% of Asians female deaths. Though younger people (under 65) may be under the impression that they are immune from serious Covid effects, these data indicate that is not the case, and that they should take the same precautions as their elders. In addition, some long term effects of Covid-19 on some who have been infected and recovered, of all ages, including brain damage, are suspected but not yet understood. 

Figure 7 charts mortality rate per thousand based on reported deaths to date by decade per gender and racial/ethnic group – indicating that mortality rates among both Blacks and Hispanics by decade were substantially greater than, often more than double, those of Whites and Asians in all age groups, with some variation by gender.

Mortality rates overall are generally higher among men as compared to women but variation among women of different racial/ethnic groups is also substantial and some women’s group rates are close to those of some men’s.  While Black and Hispanic women in H/HC have died at rates lower than men of their same groups, their rates are equal to or near par with those of White men and higher than Asian men. Hispanic women have died at rates 42% higher than White women, 94% higher than Asian women, and 5% higher than Black women. Black women have died at rates36% higher than White women and 85% higher than Asian women. Age variation factors in here as well.

There is also a big difference in the gender variation between racial/ethnic groups here: Hispanic Men have died here at a reported rate 78% higher than Hispanic womenAsian men at a rate 73% higher than Asian womenBlack men at a rate 51% higher than Black women; and White men at a rate 42% higher than White womenThat is a 36% gap between Hispanic and White gender differentials, which may be linked to men (often younger men) being in some frontline jobs in greater numbers than women, to their having limited health care access and/or to those men being in worse health than women and/or taking fewer health precautions.[8]

Along with contagion in frontline jobs, economic repercussions of the pandemic (including evictions) increase the likelihood that people will be packed into shared apartments with no room for sick people to isolate. Immigration fears also impact the Hispanic community as well as other immigrant communities here, relative to deportation and to the Feb. 2020 federal ruling (enacted right before the pandemic) that blocks green card access for those who utilize food stamps and some health and housing assistance. Some may choose to seek no aid, even in illness.

Of the 536 deaths reported between Oct. 2nd and Dec. 1st, 3 occurred in April, 6 in May, 18 in June, 123 in July, 114 in August, 100 in September and 126 in October and 46 in November. All of the 17 “Unknown Race” deaths come from Harris County data. Per death certificates, totalreported Covid-19 deaths in Houston/ Harris County to date per month are: March 18; April 172; May 147; June 278; July 987; August 488; September 177; October 126; November 46. Though July was a period with high mortality and later months have been lower to date, the lag in reporting means the more recent months are as yet incomplete and will rise. The dip in deaths in May reflects the County Judge’s Stay Home order (in effect from March 24, 2020), and the rise thereafter reflects the Governor’s lifting of the order (May 1). 

1-WEEK to several-MONTH Lag in COVID Fatality Reports 
Though the numbers of new reported Covid-19 infections fell for a time in Houston/ Harris County since highs in June and July, rates are now rising again and the death toll continues to rise. Exact monthly numbers are not yet known, due to a current roughly 2-month lag in reporting due to processing. (See appendix for the spread of recent report dates.) This finding mirrors a recent Houston Chronicle report about the pattern of delay in reporting Covid deaths across Texas.[9] As the report noted, policy decisions based on lagging data may be problematic, at all levels of government, as was the case in May when the state’s low reported death rate was used as evidence for the safety of reopening. The pattern is ongoing and statewide deaths were undercounted at a rate of at least 44% in July, per the Chronicle.  

The lag in reporting in Houston/Harris County is displayed in Figure 8, where the dotted lines show the number of deaths by date that had been reported as of Sept. 1, the dashed lines show the reported deaths as of Oct. 1, and the solid lines show the reported deaths as of Dec. 1.  On Sept. 1, the most recent reported death had occurred on Aug. 24th – and the total number of Covid deaths were said to number 1334 (see “Total 9.1” line – pink dots). But by Oct. 1, in the line directly above, the number reported dead as of August 24th had risen to 1786, and by Dec. 1st2022 deaths had been documented to have occurred as of August 24th (reflected in the solid green line directly above that point)—688 more people than were known to have died on Sept. 1, and still climbing. 

This suggests that current numbers are much behind, and the actual death rates for recent months will not be known for some time, though strides have been made in catching up the summer backlog. The levelling off in the most recent weeks in Figure 8 reflects the lag in reporting – and will shift upward as more data comes in and if deaths increase again as has been predicted for the winter. Keep the lag in mind when you hear reports on the current official fatality rate.  

The state data collection systems were not set up for real time reporting, so trying to make policy on the basis of current count information is confusing to everyone.  Though similar issues obtain in all jurisdictions, per the Houston Chronicle’s October 2nd report Texas’s data collection system is particularly slow—with “Texas’ gap between the number of people dying and its reported deaths … at least two to three times greater than California or New York’s during their deadliest days.”  Data systems are outdated and health agencies are understaffed and underfunded, relative to needthe legislature should address these issues in the Spring session

Currently the most reliable real-time measure of the pandemic may be hospitalization rate, based on weekly direct reports on ICU bed usage, which is trackable for all Texas counties on the UT School of Public Health Covid-19 Dashboard.[10] As of 12.20.20, 23% of ICU beds in Houston are occupied by Covid-19 patients, while in El Paso it is 49%, and Amarillo 63%. When Excess Deaths are analyzed next year (see below), the numbers of deaths recognized to be Covid-19 linked will rise further, across all months of the pandemic. All these dynamic data changes will also impact gender, race and age analyses, so this report and others based on current data are provisional. 

GENDER ANALYSES
Of the total 2439 reported deaths in the two jurisdictions to Dec. 1st, 61.3% (1494) were male and 38.7% (945) were female,[11] consistent with the global pattern of more male deaths, though testing shows an infection rate of roughly 50/50.[12]  Of the 536 recent reported deaths, 335 were men and 201 women (62.5%/37.5%), with men’s mortality rate continuing more than 50% higher than that of women.[13] The global difference is likely due to a combination of biological and behavioral factors, with behaviors that lead men to be in worse health than women generally perhaps more influential.[14]A report in Nature on August 26, 2020, found that older men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than older women. The proportion of reported Covid deaths to men in this region has increased over the months. But people of all genders/sexes with such co-morbidities as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory ailments are at greater risk than those without. Of the deaths documented in the City of Houston between Oct. 2 and Dec. 1, only 5.5% (16/288) were listed as not involving an underlying condition.[15] Recent research suggests that mild overweight can also be a risk factor.[16]

Interestingly, the gender difference varies between the two local health departments, though less now than previously. The City of Houston Health Department’s reported 1438 deaths as of December 1 were 930 male / 508 female64.7.0%m/35.3.0%f.  But Harris County Health Department’s reported 1001deaths in the unincorporated sectors of Harris County as of Dec. 1 were 586 male, 415 female58.5%m/41.5%f. That gender variation in mortality across jurisdictions may be linked to who is present in frontline jobs, the ages of the population present by race, and/or to other factors.  

Figures 9 & 10 break down Covid-19 deaths by Gender, Race and Age in each health jurisdiction.

The racial and gender balance differs markedly in the two jurisdictions, linked to who is present, at what age, and in what work situations. 

Overall the gender mortality gap in the region has been increasing, as shown in Figures 11, 12 and, 13, which document the Gender difference in Covid-19 deaths in the region. Figure 11 gives the overall picture, and Figures 12 and 13 break that down by Health Department.

Figure 12 shows that the City of Houston had a big gap between male and female deaths early on, while the Harris County Health data in Figure 13 shows that deaths in the areas outside of the City of Houston in Harris County have not shown much of a gap until more recently.   

AGE ANALYSES
Age also significantly intersects Covid-19 deathsThe majority of Covid-19 deaths globally occur among people over seventy, and that is the case here as well (deaths to people over 70 made up 1308 out of 2439 in Figure 14).  Overall, the old, those with underlying conditions and the poor/socially vulnerable, or those with some combination of those factors, have proven most at risk.  However, as noted above, the numbers of deaths here among people in their 40s, 50s and 60s are significant.

While women have died in lower numbers than men in all age bands between 20s and 70s, the dynamic changes in the 80+ band (353 women / 342 men), in large part because men represent only 37% of the population of people 80 and over in Harris County. Given that more than twice as many women as men survive into their 80s and beyond (due to men’s overall worse health outcomes), older women’s Covid-19 fatalities actually have occurred at much lower rate than their representation in the population of those 80+ compared to men (see Figure 7 for mortality rates by decade and gender). The same resiliency that allows women to live longer in general plays in with Covid-19.  Nonetheless, Covid-19 has decimated the community of elders across the United States – and even more so in the Hispanic and Black communities, which already had low survival rates into their later decades due to lower health care access, etc. The nation is much the poorer for these losses.

Age intersects with gender and race/ethnicity outcomes across age ranges. Twenty of the 26 reported deaths to date among people between 10 and 29 (none reported here yet to children 9 or under) have occurred among Hispanics: 2 teen boys and 10 men in their 20s; 4 teen girls and 4 women in their 20s; along with 1 White teen boy and 2 Black men, 2 White women and one man of unknown race in their 20s.  The 62 deaths reported among people in their 30s here to date break down as: 40 Hispanic, 10 Black, 8 White, 3 Asian, 1 Unknown Race; of them, 45 were male and 17 female. See above for discussion of deaths among men and women 59 and under. Deaths among the young are few across the board, and we will see ongoingly whether recent reports of higher transmission rates among younger people lead to an increased death rate in that group, or not. New effective treatments for critically ill patients may also reduce the overall death rate as we move toward distribution of the vaccine and the hoped-for end of widespread hospitalizations. 

While susceptibility to Covid-19 is greater among the elderly, the numbers of deaths in each age/race-ethnicity group will also relate to which racial/ethnic groups include more elderly people. A UT Southwestern Medical Center study, summarizes Texas average life expectancies across gender and racial groups:

  • Hispanic women – 83.9 years; Hispanic men – 78.28
  • White women – 80.6; White men – 75.6
  • Black women – 78.0; Black men – 72.4

Lower life expectancies are directly linked to poverty and can be tracked to zip code level via the UTS website.[17] The “Hispanic Health Paradox,” that Hispanics have longer lives in spite of high poverty rates, seems linked to high rates of immigration – and healthier food access / eating patterns in youth (and thus lower blood pressure and obesity), lower smoking rates and a tendency of healthier people to migrate. US-born Hispanics have similar obesity and other lifetime health issues linked to eating patterns as other Americans, in various class positions.[18]

Covid-19 has highlighted pre-existent disparities in American society linked to poverty and to the stresses of poverty and of racism, including health differences, and it has also emphasized gendered health differences—which may be in part biological and/or linked to socialized gender behaviors. Just as workplace exposure may be an issue for younger people, place and context of residence may also be a factor in whether a person contracts Covid-19: the virus has spread quickly in some nursing homes, for example (44% of Texas’s Covid-19 deaths up to late June occurred in such places),[19] while elders in multi-generational families may also be at risk if younger frontline workers bring contagion home. Nursing home infection rates ballooned in July.[20]

While Covid-19 has demonstrated some predictable socio-economic patterns, it also seems to behave in distinctive ways as a disease, around factors like gender, age, and post-infection immunity. We are watching an evolving disease, with evolving effects on various sectors.[21]

EXCESS DEATHS (Unreported COVID-19 Deaths) 
The number of reported deaths does not accurately reflect total local deaths to Covid-19, for another reason as well: undiagnosed deaths.  For an extended period of weeks this spring, few people were being tested and therefore quite a few who had the virus were not identified as Covid-19 deaths. This is a national issue, and a July study in JAMApresented the numbers of “excess deaths” due to respiratory ailments in March-May 2020 compared to a running average of the past five years for that period in each state.[22]They found that in Texas 55% of such excess deaths were not attributed to Covid-19 in March-May though most of them were caused by it, meaning that more than double the number of reported Covid-19 deaths were likely. Since May, deaths in hospital will be tested for Covid-19, but deaths at home will not necessarily be, so they may not be so registered if not tested previously. The percentage missed might change over time as testing increases, but some misses remain predictable, especially since, although testing has increased, it is not available timely to meet the demand of all who seek it during spikes. 

The undiagnosed death rate is also increased when Texans without health insurance choose not to not seek help if they become ill until it’s too late, if at all. In 2018, Texas had the highest percentage of uninsured of any state at 17.7%, per the US Census bureau (national average was 8.9%).[23]That percentage has risen substantially since March 2020, because many of those who lost their jobs in the pandemic also lost their insurance through their employers. All the factors intertwine.

The undercount of infections and deaths and the actual rate of deaths also increase when people who wish to avoid challenge on their immigration status are slow to seek assistance, avoiding testing and/or hospitals. In addition, deaths due to other causes may be linked to Covid-19 if people with, for example, heart ailments refrain from getting treatment for fear of the virus.  

ADDITIONAL PANDEMIC GENDER EFFECTS – Homeschooling, Domestic Violence, etc. 
As noted in previous Snapshots, the lower level of female Covid-19 deaths contrasts to a number of other gender differentials around the virus, both national and local.  These include:
• Women’s higher rates of workplace exposure in some frontline jobs (in Harris County, women make up 74% of health workers, 59% of fast food workers, 73% of pharmacists, and 69% of cashiers), which connects to women’s lower levels of pay (see UH IRWGS Initial Report on H/HC Gender & Sexuality Data, 2020); 
• Women’s expanded responsibilities for childcare & homeschooling with school shutdowns (see below); 
• Higher levels of domestic violencethough data specific to Harris County is still incoming, rates of calls to shelters have risen and global reports document a rise due to increased numbers locked in with their abusers, greater economic stress, children at home 24/7, and fear of potential Covid-19 in a shelter.  
• Efforts to reduce access to birth control and abortion during the pandemic, which may also affect women’s and families’ long-term status. 

Researchers on workplace equity predict that women overall and single mothers in particular[24] will see long-term career setbacks if they have to step away from jobs due to their greater responsibility for childcare and homeschooling due to pandemic school closures.[25]  To address this likelihood, with leadership on the working parent front, countermeasures could be adopted to guarantee that women will not see workplace penalties. Some parenting pay on the model of Germany’s Spring 2020 Covid salary-replacement program, for the service of raising the next generation in a time of crisis, would also be considered (see Gregory, What This County Needs Is a Working Parents Administration). 

In September 2020, 865,000 women stepped out of jobs nationally, four times as many as men–apparently liked to the impossibility for many of managing both childcare/homeschooling and a job. A national discussion of the Fall 2020 homeschooling catastrophe is needed, followed by immediate action to address it. See also, Death and Childcare

On the many concatenating Covid-intensified fronts documented in this Snapshot, both equity and economic stability demand thoughtful innovation and transformative action by business and civic leaders, both nationally and locally.  

APPENDIX

Here follow charts tracking the lag in recent reporting of death certificates over months by the Houston and Harris County health departments. These charts do not include the many deaths that had been reported earlier, but they give a sense of the patterns of substantial delay. 


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Death and childcare — more men die but more women lose work from COVID-19

Here’s a recent piece of mine in the Houston Chronicle, on His and Her Covid effects: higher death rates vs widespread career threats.

COVID-19 has changed all our lives, but not equally for men and women. Two of the many differences fall in the areas of mortality and child care.

Men in Harris County have died of COVID-19 in numbers 50 percent higher than women, per death certificatesthough infection rates run parallel. By early October, we saw 1,161 male and 749 female reported COVID-19 deaths here, not including undiagnosed cases, and men are hospitalized at higher rates. You can take a look at the breakdown by gender, race and ethnicity at the University of Houston’s Institute for Women, Gender and Sexuality’s reports (data are provisional, due to lags and underreporting). … MORE

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What This Country Needs Is a Working Parents Administration & Pandemic Parenting Pay

https://www.thenation.com/article/society/working-parents-administration-education/

Here’s a recent piece of mine in The Nation, on policies to address the current shortfalls at school and at work: Universal Online Tutoring & Pandemic Parenting Pay.

A Los Angeles Unified School District student attends an online class. (Jae C. Hong / AP Photo)

As schools go online nationally amid a recession, the speeding high-unemployment and home-school trains are on a collision course, with working mothers, their families, and the economy set to be mowed down at the crossroads. Unless we switch tracks, quickly.

This fall, many parents must homeschool their children while continuing to work at full-time employment. Those who can’t manage both—many of them women—will have to quit their jobs or reduce their hours, adding to the already huge ranks of the unemployed. In some cases, their spots may be filled by currently unemployed workers without child care responsibilities—creating a major setback to the gender balance of the workforce and leaving many families struggling on reduced incomes. … MORE

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