Where City Factories, And Now Babies Die.
The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has mastered many of the trades Milwaukee championed in the last century: machinery, motors, metalworking. Guangzhou’s boom has coincided with the sunset of manufacturing in Milwaukee, which in mere decades lost one of the nation’s densest concentrations of mass production.
The two cities crisscross in another way:
Babies in China’s industrial heartland now have a far better chance of reaching their first birthday.
In Milwaukee, one baby under the age of 12 months dies for every 95 who live, making it one of America’s most fatal cities for infants. A generation ago, Milwaukee was one of the safest.
Among registered residents of Guangzhou, one baby dies for every 210 who live. The Chinese data, vetted by the World Bank and United Nations, often miss migrant workers in factories, but their infant survival rates are improving markedly as well.
Infant survival and economic competitiveness tend to move on the same sliding scale. Study after study reveals survival chances increase in communities and nations with rising wealth and stability – just as young life is threatened by economic crisis and upheaval.
The issue is especially acute in Milwaukee, a once-muscular manufacturing city where the infant mortality rate in some neighborhoods now rivals that of Third World nations. As civic leaders embark on just-announced efforts to eliminate racial disparities and cut deaths to historic lows, the central city fallout from 30 years of industrial downsizing underscores the biggest challenge in turning the tide.
“Wealth leaves the city and infant mortality rates rise,” said Thomas LaVeist, a professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “Not just in the United States, but worldwide.”
From developing nations such as India, Vietnam and Brazil to mature economies such as Germany and Japan and post-communist states such as Poland and Estonia, countries around the world are making consistent and measurable advances in infant survival.
With one notable exception.
The United States has fallen behind.
The U.S. slid from 12th best in the world in 1960 to 30th in 2005, according to rankings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a broader set of 196 nations tracked by UNICEF, the U.S. has fallen to 45, where it ties with Montenegro and Slovakia. It lags all of western and eastern Europe, all of developed Asia, as well as Belarus and Serbia. It’s only narrowly better than Bosnia and Bulgaria. Get the full read by John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel here.