Giving birth in Australia was seriously dangerous until the mid-20th century

Medical progress contributed more than people realise to women’s liberation. The key area of progress was far fewer deaths in childbirth as the chart below for Australia shows. Deaths from childbirth disappeared from mortality statistics in the 1940s and 1950s.

death rates of women in Australia from all causes

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare via Sydney Morning Herald This chart shows how you will probably die, and it’s changed a lot in 100 years.

The next key area of medical progress was fewer disabling injuries subsequent because of childbirth that kept women out of the workforce for several years if not permanently. In Gender Roles and Medical Progress, Stefania Albanesi and Claudia Olivetti say

Consider a typical woman born around 1900. She married at 21 and gave birth to more than three live children between age 23 and 33. The high fetal mortality rate implied an even greater number of pregnancies, so that she would be pregnant for 36% of this time.

Health risks in connection to pregnancy and childbirth were severe. Septicemia, toxaemia, hemorrhages and obstructed labour could lead to prolonged physical disability and, in the extreme, death. In 1920 one mother died for each 125 living births. At a rate of 3.6 pregnancies per woman, the compounded risk of death from maternal causes was 2.9%.

For every death, twenty times as many mothers were estimated to suffer different degrees of disablement annually. Many maternal conditions had very long lasting or chronic effects on health, hindering women’s ability to work beyond their childbearing years.

Death in childbirth and serious complications from childbirth been forgotten in modern memory. So much so that there can be an entire year in New Zealand when no child nor mother dies in childbirth. When that does happen, there is a coroner’s enquiry.

The implications of medical progress around childbirth for female life expectancy has been equally forgotten as Albanesi and Olivetti explain

The development of bacteriology, the introduction of sulfominydes and antibiotics, and the diffusion of blood banks dramatically decreased the death rate from sepsis and hemorrhage. More specific interventions, such as the standardization of obstetric practices and the increased availability of pre-natal care, reduced the incidence of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and obstructed labour, a causal factor for many forms of post-partum disability.

These developments lead to a stark decline in maternal mortality and a rise in the female-male differential in life expectancy at age 20 from 1.5 years in 1920 to 6 years in 1960.

At the beginning of the last century, the burden of childbirth and breastfeeding simply made it impossible for married women to work in any significant number as Albanesi and Olivetti explain

In addition, due to the lack of reliable alternatives, most infants were exclusively breast fed. Women would then be nursing for approximately a third of the time between age 23 and 33.

Since the average time required to feed one child ranges between 14 and 17 hours per week, with a 40 hour workweek, mothers would be nursing for 35%-43% of their potential working time in childbearing years.

Not surprisingly given this burden, few married women worked. Only 5.4% of married women aged 25 to 34 were in the labour force in 1900.

There was an extraordinary reduction in the number of years lost in disablement after childbirth in the early and mid-20th century as Albanese in Olivetti’s explain

…the years lost to disabilities associated with maternal conditions declined from 2.31 per pregnancy in 1920 to just 0.17 in 1960.

Medical progress  around childbirth is the most important force driving the rise in the participation of married women during childbearing years and post-childbearing between 1935 and 1965. The health burden of giving birth is now measured in weeks rather than years.

% female employees aged 25 to 54 working 40 or more hours per week across the OECD

image

Data extracted on 11 Mar 2016 14:08 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat.

The gender pay gap for high school leavers and graduates aged 35-44 in the US, UK, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand

The USA, the gender pay gap gets worse if you go to college. By contrast, in Sweden and especially Canada the gender pay gap is much less for graduates than for those with a high school education.

image

Data extracted on 09 Mar 2016 22:28 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat.

In most countries in the chart above, going on to university and graduating does not reduce the gender pay gap by the time you reach your late 30s and early 40s. Best explanation for that is that part of the graduate wage premium is traded for work-life balance.

What percentage of mothers with a child aged 0-2 yrs have a paid job

1996 US welfare reforms & single mother employment rates @garethmorgannz @geoffsimmonz

image

Source: Ron Haskins (2015).

US maternal employment rates by number and age of children

image

Source: Pensions at a Glance 2015 – Statistics – OECD iLibrary.

Why did married couples get a pass on the great wage stagnation and the ravages of the top 1%?

Marriage used to be a pairing of opposites: Men would work for pay and women would work at home. But in the second half of the 20th century, women flooded the labour force, raising their participation rate from 32 percent, in 1950, to nearly 60 percent in the last decade. As women closed the education gap, the very nature of marriage has changed. It has slowly become an arrangement pairing similarly rich and educated people. Ambitious workaholics used to seek partners who were happy to take care of the house. Today, they’re more likely to seek another ambitious workaholic.

The rich and educated are more likely to marry, to marry each other, and to produce rich and educated children. But this virtual cycle turns vicious for the poor.

Source: How America’s Marriage Crisis Makes Income Inequality So Much Worse – The Atlantic

Employment patterns of couples differential with families differ greatly across the OECD

Average weekly working hours by gender and presence of children, Canada, UK and USA

Figure 1: average weekly working hours for Current or Last Job(s) Held aged 20-54 by gender, 2004

image

Source: LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

Real Time with Bill Maher Blog

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Climate Audit

by Steve McIntyre

New Historical Express

(Formerly Hatful of History)

Why Evolution Is True

Why Evolution is True is a blog written by Jerry Coyne, centered on evolution and biology but also dealing with diverse topics like politics, culture, and cats.

The Skeptical Doctor

Dedicated to the work of Theodore Dalrymple

Science Matters

Reading between the lines, and underneath the hype.

Uneasy Money

Commentary on monetary policy in the spirit of R. G. Hawtrey

The Market Monetarist

Markets Matter, Money Matters...

Point of Order

Politics and the economy

Truth on the Market

Scholarly commentary on law, economics, and more

Organizations and Markets

Economics of organizations, strategy, entrepreneurship, innovation, and more

John Quiggin

Commentary on Australian and world events from a socialist and democratic viewpoint

The Antiplanner

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Pedestrian Observations

For Walkability and Good Transit, and Against Boondoggles and Pollution

Bet On It

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Trade Diversion

Commentary on development, globalization, and trade by Jonathan Dingel.

Movie Nation

Roger Moore's film criticism, against the grain since 1984.

AwayPoint

Between An Island of Certainties and the Unknown Shore

Weapons and Warfare

History and Hardware of Warfare

fportier.wordpress.com/

Franck Portier's professional page

NZCPR Site

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Anti-Dismal

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Bowalley Road

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

History of Sorts

WORLD WAR 2,EIGHTIES,MUSIC,HISTORY,HOLOCAUST

Tudor Chronicles

News, reviews and talk all about the Tudors

Karl du Fresne

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Roger Pielke Jr.

an undisciplined academic - @RogerPielkeJr on Twitter

Great Books Guy

Reading The Classics

@STILLTish. Gender Abolition

Examining Gender Identity ideology and its impact on Women's Sex based rights and Gay Rights. Exploring how this has taken such firm root in Western societies (Cognitive & Regulatory Capture).

200-Proof Liberals

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

What Paul Gregory is Writing About

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Offsetting Behaviour

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Conversable Economist

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

Barrie Saunders

Thoughts on public policy and the media

The Victorian Commons

Researching the House of Commons, 1832-1868

Coyote Blog

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

The History of Parliament

Blogging on parliament, politics and people, from the History of Parliament

Books & Boots

reflections on books and art

Legal History Miscellany

Posts on the History of Law, Crime, and Justice

Sex, Drugs and Economics

Celebrating humanity's flourishing through the spread of capitalism and the rule of law

%d bloggers like this: