Cash During Pregnancy: A Promising Approach for Improving Health Inequities at Birth

We need to be talking about wealth, not income. Wealth is what allows us to live with dignity and have freedom of choice. It is also passed down from generation to generation.

Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Vice President of Programs and Strategy

Insight Center for Community Economic Development

The topic of our May Collaboratory, which we co-hosted with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Asset Funders Network, was understanding the black/white racial wealth gap that has persisted for decades, and how it may play a key role in preterm birth disparities. Designed and moderated by PTBi Postdoctoral Transdisciplinary Research Fellow, Deb Karasek, the panel was composed of Expecting Justice Program Manager, Zea Malawa, Vice President of Programs and Strategy at Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Jhumpa Bhattacharya as well as Bina Patel Shrimali, the Senior Researcher in Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and visiting researchers from the University of Manitoba, Marni Brownell and Nathan C. Nickel. 

The panel spoke about how directly addressing income insecurity in pregnancy offers an untapped opportunity to generate long term health and financial improvements for families. For example, Marni Brownell and Nathan C. Nickel shared their research conducted at the University of Manitoba explaining that offering pregnant women $81 per month through the years of 2003 to 2010, without conditions, improved health outcomes. The duo explained that those who received benefit had 8% preterm birth and those who did not had a 11% preterm birth rate. Their Study states, "Placing conditions on income supplements may not be necessary to promote prenatal and perinatal health." 


Zea Malawa spoke about unconditional income supplementation in San Francisco by describing a feasibility study Expecting Justice is hoping to get off the ground. Malawa stated, "Nothing like this has ever happened in this nation, so we will be the first.” Malawa also explained that the median income for White San Franciscans is $121,000 per year while the median income for Black San Franciscans is $30,000 per year.




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