The City of San Francisco will provide 150 Black and Pacific Islander women with $1,000 a month of unconditional cash in order to fight disparities in health outcomes that plague the city. The pilot program will allow women to receive the stipend during their pregnancies and for six months after birth so that the impact of monthly financial support on birthing outcomes can be studied.
On Monday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced in partnership with Expecting Justice, the launch of The Abundant Birth Project. The goal of the program is to eventually provide women with a stipend for a full two years after a baby’s birth.
Expecting Justice, an initiative led by the San Francisco Department of Public Health Department’s Dr. Zea Malawa, will study the impact of the stipend on health outcomes.
“Structural racism, which has left Black and Pacific Islander communities particularly exposed to COVID-19, also threatens the lives of Black and PI mothers and babies,” Malawa said.
During the pandemic, an increasing number of Black women are seeking the support of midwives in order to give birth outside of a traditional hospital setting. Many women have sought not only to avoid contracting COVID-19 by avoiding the hospital, but also to escape racial disparities in heath outcomes: Nationally, Black women are three times more likely than whites to die during childbirth regardless of economic status or educational attainment.
“The Abundant Birth Project is a simple, yet novel, approach to achieving better maternal health and birthing outcomes: provide pregnant Black and Pacific Islander women a monthly income supplement for the duration of their pregnancy and during the postpartum period as an economic and reproductive health intervention,” reads a news release from the SanFrancisco Mayor’s Office.
Between 2012 and 2016, Black infants born in San Francisco were nearly twice as likely to be born premature than white infants. Premature birth can increase the risk of behavioral development issues, learning difficulties, and chronic disease. Black women and children account for half of all maternal deaths and 15 percent of infant deaths despite making up just 4 percent of the city’s population.
“Providing guaranteed income support to mothers during pregnancy is an innovative and equitable approach that will ease some of the financial stress that all too often keeps women from being able to put their health first,” said Mayor Breed.
“The Abundant Birth Project is rooted in racial justice and recognizes that Black and Pacific Islander mothers suffer disparate health impacts, in part because of the persistent wealth and income gap. Thanks to the work of the many partners involved, we are taking real action to end these disparities and are empowering mothers with the resources they need to have healthy pregnancies and births.”
The initiative is funded primarily by the Hellman Foundation, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Malawa said the cash will act as a “restorative step,” to reduce financial stress during pregnant and infancy. The median household income in San Francisco is $30,000 for Black families, compared to $104,000 across the city.
The Abundant Birth Project recruited Black women to be a part of the design team while the program was still in development, and will connect eligible pregnant women with prenatal services over the next two years.
“It is exciting to be in a city that not only calls out racism as a problem, but also takes steps to heal the wounds left by decades of injustice and anti-Black sentiment,” Malawa said.