August 4, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! Is the US economy thriving or flopping? Check your inbox on Sunday for our latest Deep Dive. Today, though, we're exploring:

  • Maternal mortality: The latest figures are cause for concern.
  • BYD vs. Tesla: China's EV giant is charging ahead.
  • Strong Suits: The legal drama's a Netflix hit.

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New research out this week from nonprofit organization March of Dimes reveals that access to maternity care is declining in the US, where almost 6 million women are reportedly living with no or limited access to care. That's in part due to a 4% drop in availability of hospital birthing units in the past year as hospital administrators have been cutting unprofitable maternity services.

Maternal mortality

Data presented by the CDC in March only emphasizes the extent of the issue. In 2021, there were a total of 1,205 deaths in ~3.7 million live births, translating to a maternal mortality rate of 32.9 per 100,000 births — nearly double the rate seen as recently as 2018. And, while the US already had the worst maternal mortality rate among developed nations (in 2020, it was nearly 3x that of the next highest rate, France), the nation has seen the closure of more than 300 birthing units since 2018.

The figures are most pronounced in areas with limited access to care. Between 2018-2021, poorly connected Appalachian states saw the worst maternal mortality rates in the country, with Arkansas and Mississippi averaging more than 43 deaths per 100,000 births. Indeed, access to healthcare has diminished in the last decade, with more than 4% of rural hospitals closing between 2013-2020 and nearly half of all rural community hospitals providing no obstetrics care of any kind.

Divisions of labor

Maternity services dropping off across the country has only widened the disparity between certain populations. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate was 69.9 for Non-Hispanic Black women, more than 2.6x the rate for Non-Hispanic White women.

BYD time

For Chinese manufacturing giant BYD, it seems like the only way is up at the moment — the automaker has just posted its third consecutive month of record-breaking EV sales and climbed 224 positions on this year’s Fortune Global 500.

While its 212th placement on Fortune’s list will undoubtedly be the first time that some in the West will have come across BYD, the company has quietly become one of the two major players in the electric vehicle game and is pulling away from its more brazen US counterpart, Tesla.

Supercharged growth

BYD’s growth in recent years has seen the company overtake huge brands at both national and international levels — in May, we charted the company’s 2-year journey from being China’s 5th biggest automaker to the top spot with a 10.4% market share. Although comparisons with Tesla aren’t exact — Musk’s company deals exclusively in battery electric vehicles (BEVs), while BYD makes plug-in hybrids too — a similarly speedy ascent has played out in the global EV market.

In 2020, Tesla finished the year with just under 500,000 deliveries, more than double BYD’s figure of ~188,000, but, just 2 years later, the tables had firmly turned. By the end of 2022, the Chinese automaker saw its net income soar 446% as it cemented its position at the top of the EV market, selling nearly 1.9 million models compared to Tesla’s 1.3 million tally.

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Netflix has a brand new hit show… sort of. Suits, which wrapped its 9th and final season back in 2019, hit US Netflix for the first time in history on June 17 and viewers have been glued to the New York-based legal drama ever since.

The show has just broken the same Nielsen streaming record, highest watch time for an acquired series, twice in 2 weeks, racking up a whopping 3.7 billion minutes of viewing from July 3-July 9 — proof that there’s very much still an appetite for "older" shows.


The show’s renewed popularity comes at a time when streamers and traditional networks are being forced to look away from new programming, with writers’ and actors’ strikes still blighting the Hollywood film and TV industry. Suits started in 2011 and was a hit with audiences throughout its 8-year run, as its IMDB ratings heatmap can attest.

Social media has certainly played its part in the Suits renaissance, with its star actors driving much of the renewed buzz. Indeed, while Wikipedia interest in the show itself spiked after it was added to Netflix in June — 720,000 people viewed the Suits page in July — its stars have piqued the viewers’ interest even more. Gabriel Macht, who played Harvey Specter in the show, had 780,000 people looking at his page, while actress Meghan Markle’s Wikipedia attracted 730,000 visits. Interestingly, that’s only her 4th top month in the last 3 years, having made a slightly sideways career move after leaving the show.

Go deeper on the streaming biz: Check out our recent Sunday Deep Dive — Streamonomics!

More Data

Nintendo has reported a 52% surge in profit, driven by the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and the latest Zelda game, with Nintendo Switch console sales rising by 14%.

• Church attendance has shown a small decline compared with pre-pandemic data, as just 31% of people surveyed reported attending church in the last 7 days.

Tom Brady is the latest A-list celebrity to start investing in British soccer, becoming a minority owner of the 148-year-old English club Birmingham City FC.

• Crew members working for Taylor Swift have been given six-figure sums, totaling ~$55m altogether, as a bonus for their work on her Eras tour.

Mattel, which does actually do non-Barbie-related things too, is looking for a chief Uno player for its new Quatro edition — the job offers 4-hour shifts, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks, and the salary is $4,444.44.


The floor is lava: Very cool interactive visual exploring why certain flooring can make heatwaves feel so much worse than they actually are.

• How far for the homerun? The Washington Post explores how far you have to hit to get a homerun at different MLB stadiums.

• The world's deadliest animals (no, it's not sharks).

Off the charts: Which film studio could be at the heart of the metaverse thanks to support to standardize its 3D technology from Apple, Adobe, and Nvidia? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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