The U.S. birth rate — the number of babies born nationwide — has hit the lowest it’s ever been in three decades, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is below the ‘replacement’ rate needed to sustain the population.
This was reported by Huffington Post and asks those so seriously concerned about the declining birth rate to look at a key component being overlooked: women are often being ‘punished’ for getting pregnant.
They tell the story of Katia Hills, 27 years old, who became a mother in 2014. Prior to getting pregnant, she was holding a flourishing job at A & T, where she was promoted to sales representative after just a few months on the job, and more importantly, she loved what she was doing.
But things took a turn when her employers at the Elkhart, Indiana store found out she was expecting.
“I was being treated a lot different, it was devastating,” Hills told Huffington Post.
If she was late for work because she needed to go to the doctor or if it was because of morning sickness, she would lose a ‘point’. Employees who lose enough points under AT&T’s system face the possibility of losing their jobs, according to Huffington Post, and at the time, Hills observed that non-pregnant employees were not deducted a point if they were late for work.
The New York Times reported that “social factors” affected the birth rate, like women putting careers first, others went after the patriarchy, then there were economic factors, and Huffington Post even pointed out the twisted argument of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson who somehow pinpointed male immigrants as the culprit.
Amid these stories lies the reality that a lot of women are aware of even before they get pregnant: there is little social support existing for them as mothers.
This is even more apparent for low-income women, who face poverty as a real issue if they have kids, and for higher-earning women, pregnancy often knocks them off track for raises and promotions.
Couple that with the fact that 88 percent of workers get no paid leave in the United States, according to the Labor Department, and that 1 in 4 mothers often have to go back to work less than two weeks after giving birth, then it’s no wonder that what should be a time of joy and anticipation turn into one of agitation and worry.
Huffington also notes that the Washington Center for Equitable Growth found wage penalties for moms is not helping, adding that even with 70% of families depending on a mother’s income, full time working moms still only make 71% of what working fathers make.
“To the extent that some women would want to be mothers if it was financially viable, but don’t want to risk good careers or poverty, that’s not a free choice,” Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat, an associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, said. “Women are painted into a corner.”
Hills said she didn’t really think about these ‘punishments’ before got pregnant.
“I just felt shattered. I just saw so much potential with that company,” she said.
Read more of the case here.