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U.S. News Archive
April 21 - April 27, 2000





This page contains news for the period Friday, April 21, 2000 through Thursday, April 27, 2000.


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Thursday, April 27, 2000

Unmarried save less for retirement that married workers

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that more than half of U.S. households have saved less than they should for a comfortable retirement, and 59 percent of Americans expect their standard of living in old age to be lower than it is now, according to studies released Wednesday by a consumer group.

An analysis of Federal Reserve data found that 56 percent of households are lagging in saving for retirement. Families with higher incomes tended to have sufficient savings, while only 23 percent of households with annual income between $10,000 and $25,000 had a sufficient cushion, the analysis released by Consumer Federation of America showed.

The study also found that African-American and Latino households were much less likely to have adequate retirement savings than white ones. On average, it found that 47.6 percent of white households had enough savings, compared with 28.4 percent of black households and 24.5 percent of Latino families.

And unmarried men and women tended to be less likely to have sufficient savings than married people.

Research by Catherine Montalto, an economics professor at Ohio State University, found that job-related retirement plans are the easiest way to build savings, helping assure adequate retirement savings for about 55 percent of people who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a pension plan or the increasingly popular 401(k) investment plans.

However, few lower-income workers -- only 11 percent of those earning less than $10,000 a year -- have access to those retirement plans through their jobs.

Adequate retirement savings were defined as enough money to allow people to maintain a lifestyle close to their current one.

A related survey of 1,006 adults around the United States found that 40 percent of respondents believe their retirement savings would provide a lower than current but adequate standard of living, while 19 percent said they would provide a less than adequate standard of living.

The telephone survey, conducted March 9-12 by Opinion Research Corp. International, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

U.S. Senate fails to break impasse over marriage tax cut

A story published today by Reuters reports that the United States Senate failed Thursday to break an impasse over a $248 billion Republican-backed tax cut for married couples that Democrats say is too costly and is skewed in favor of wealthy couples.

For the second time this a month, Republicans were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to limit debate and order a vote on the tax cut bill. Republicans accused Democrats of opposing tax cuts while Democrats complained about the size of the package, arguing it would hurt other budget priorities such as providing a prescription drug benefit for the elderly.

"They (the Democrats) don't really want marriage penalty tax relief. That is the unspoken truth,'' Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told reporters.

"They can't say it because they know the marriage penalty infuriates people,'' the Mississippi Republican added. "You know why they don't want it? Because it is a tax cut.''

Democrats say they favor marriage penalty tax relief but are not willing to support the Republican bill, claiming that it is a broad tax cut that would mostly benefit the wealthy.

The Republican plan goes far beyond fixing the marriage penalty,'' said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

"Sixty percent of their $248 billion plan has nothing to do with fixing the marriage penalty,'' the South Dakota Democrat said. "That's what this vote is about. This vote is about the tens of billions of dollars of tax cuts hidden in this bill that have nothing to do with eliminating the marriage penalty on working families.''

About 48% of married couples end up paying more in taxes than they would if they were single. But some 42% of them, mostly those with one income, pay less in taxes than they would if they were single, thereby reaping a marriage bonus.

The Republican bill would eliminate the marriage tax penalty by raising the standard deduction and expanding the 15-and 28-percent tax brackets for married couples.

The bill would likely face a veto if it ever makes it to President Clinton's desk. Clinton has proposed more modest tax relief for working couples and some Democrats have suggested the problem could be eliminated by allowing couples the choice of filing their tax returns jointly or as single individuals.

The story says that Lott has vowed to try again to get the Republican tax cut bill through the Senate. But he wants to limit the amendments Democrats say they want to offer in support of a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.

One in five gay 'Internet households' has children

A story published today by Reuters reports that a survey of U.S. Internet users released on Thursday showed 22 percent of gay or lesbian households had at least one child. The survey also found that Internet users were nearly evenly divided on allowing "civil unions" for gay couples.

The Harris poll, conducted April 3-10 among 7,558 Internet users randomly chosen from the polling firm's database, found that 41 percent of respondents favored civil unions for gay and lesbian couples while 43 percent were opposed. Sixteen percent said they were not sure.

Specific rights for gay couples had varying degrees of support, with 86 percent of respondents favoring the right to visit a partner in the hospital, 52 percent supporting employee benefits for same-sex partners, but only 38 backing access to adoption.

Among gay or lesbian Internet users, 22 percent said they had at least one child under 18 living in their household, with 6 percent having two or more children.

Harris said the poll had a "statistical precision" of plus or minus 2 percentage points.


Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Older workers, especially the unmarried, suffer health problems when laid off

A story released today by M2 Press Wire reports that older workers who lose their jobs suffer more health problems than those who remain employed. The report was based on a study conducted at Yale.

"Some believe that job loss at older ages may be less devastating because workers are nearing retirement; in contrast, our study suggests that job loss at older ages can have significant, negative health consequences," said Elizabeth Bradley, assistant professor at Yale University's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Previous studies of the health effects associated with unemployment have focused on younger workers and individual plant closings rather than a broad cross-section of older workers.

The Yale study included 209 displaced workers and a comparison group of 2,907 continuously employed workers, aged 51 and older.

Bradley said both increased physical disability and poorer mental health were found among older workers who experience involuntary job loss. The negative health consequences were more pronounced among unmarried workers.

One factor, based on other research, may be that American workers accumulate a significant proportion of the wealth that will finance their retirements in the decade preceding retirement.

"Involuntary job loss in this period may therefore have a particularly devastating impact on economic well-being and consequently on emotional and physical health," the Yale researchers said.

Bradley said, "The study is important because it highlights the broad effects of downsizing, which include not only economic losses but also reductions in the physical and mental health of displaced individuals." Other investigators on the study were William Gallo, principal investigator, and Michele Siegel, both post doctoral fellows in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and Professor Stanislav Kasl, also in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.


Monday, April 24, 2000

Prosecution in Utah puts spotlight on polygamy

A story published today in the Desert News reports that the prosecution of a self-proclaimed polygamist in Juab County could prove a defining moment for Utah law enforcement -or it could make Thomas Arthur Green a martyr and bring about the decriminalization of plural marriage.

Opponents of polygamy see the prosecution as an opportunity to test the merits of existing Utah law and push for greater enforcement. Polygamists see it a a vehicle for taking the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court as a test of religious freedom.

"I have always believed that it would take a court action one way or another," said Rep. David Zolman, who has encouraged fellow lawmakers and state officials the past few years to put the polygamy issue on the table.

Zolman says the state either needs a workable polygamy law that is enforced, or it needs to decriminalize plural marriage and get the social problems relating to the lifestyle out in the open so they can be dealt with. Regardless of the outcome of Green's case, the face of polygamy in Utah could change. The case could spur enforcement of current law, spark lawmakers to refine and tighten bigamy laws, or ignite a movement to legalize the lifestyle.

"This could be the plank in the bridge that shows whether this portion of the law is enforceable or not," the Taylorsville legislator said. "I just want to know what the law enforcement community is willing to enforce."

Last week, Juab County Attorney David Leavitt charged Green, 51, with one count of rape of a child, a first-degree felony; four counts of bigamy, third-degree felonies; and one count of criminal nonsupport, a third-degree felony.

Federal judge allows lawsuit over state refusal to let gays adopt

A story published today by MSNBC reports that a federal judge in Key West will allow a federal lawsuit to proceed against the state of Florida by a gay man who wants to adopt an 8 year-old foster child who has been in his custody for years.

Florida has a law on the books that bans homosexuals from adopting children. However, gays can serve as foster parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Project filed the lawsuit on behalf of Steven Lofton and other gays hoping to adopt children in Florida.

Lofton is a former Key West resident who now lives in Oregon with the 8 year-old boy and two other Florida foster children of whom he has legal custody.

Extended ‘filament’ families are on the rise

A story published today in the Arizona Star reports that due to divorce, cohabitation and single parenthood, a majority of families rearing children this century probably will not include the children’s original two parents.

That trend was noted by Tom W. Smith of the University of Chicago, author of a recent report, "The Emerging 21st-Century American Family.’’

Smith predicts that Census 2000 results will confirm continued growth in alternative families.

Even the 1990 Census showed changes in the traditional family. In Tucson, for example, households with a mom, a dad and children under age 18 dropped from one-quarter of all households in 1980 to one-fifth in 1990.

The story says that University of Arizona sociology professor Albert Bergeson calls the post-nuclear-family trend "filament’’ families.

Bergeson says the so-called traditional family now takes on different forms — a husband and wife each may have been married once or twice before, or a man and woman may not be married yet and be raising kids together.

"The divorce rates have leveled, but the rate is still very high. So with marriages these days being just a much more highly unstable thing, people also remarry. What you are getting is a family keeping ties with ex-spouses and kids from first marriages,’’ Bergeson said.

"You get something like a wider, thinner set of family ties. It’s a filament family.’’

No-fault divorces have made marriage splits less acrimonious than in the past, which means more families are keeping up ties even after a couple breaks up.

"One’s actual family is wider than just the nuclear family. You see it in cartoons when so and so talks about her stepmom’s boyfriend’s ex’s son from a third marriage. It’s a wider web,’’ Bergeson says.

"One reason for the structural changes is that family values have changed. More women are working, more mothers are working and there’s more approval of that,’’ Smith said.

The percentage of American females 15 years and older who aren’t married, for example, increased from 26 percent in 1972 to 44 percent in 1998, according to the report.

Smith found that the most common American living arrangement in 1972 was married couples with children — 45 percent — while in 1998, only 26 percent of households reflected that arrangement. Also, the number of households with unmarried people and no children increased from 16 percent in 1972 to 32 percent in 1998.

"Marriage has declined as the central institution under which households are organized and children are raised,’’ Smith said. "People marry later and divorce and cohabitate more. A growing proportion of children has been born outside of marriage.’’

"I don’t think the Census 2000 numbers will show us anything we don’t expect, though it’s possible it will give the meaning of family greater credibility than just our personal impression,’’ he said. "The census clearly has legitimacy.’’


Sunday, April 23, 2000

A code that predicts marriage durability

A story published today in the Bergen Record reports that psychologists from the University of Washington say they have refined a tool that is highly accurate in predicting which marriages will survive long enough to face the seven-year itch.

The story is based on an article in a recent issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

Researchers led by Sybil Carrere said a coding system they have developed for use with an oral history interview is 87 percent accurate in predicting whether a couple will still be married four to six years later, and 81 percent accurate in determining whether the marriage will survive seven to nine years.

The secret, researchers said, is not what you say, but how you say it.

"People want to code the content, but you need to get under the content to measure marital bond," said study co-author Kim Buehlman. "The coding system focuses on the positive or negative nature of what the spouses recall and how they refer to their partner."

The coding system was tested on 95 newlywed couples in the Seattle area who were selected in the early 1990s and followed for seven to nine years. The oral history interview, which researchers say is modeled on the methods of author Studs Terkel, was used to get couples entering the study to tell the story of their relationship from the moment they met. They were also asked to discuss the good and bad times in their marriage as well as their overall philosophy of marriage.

Researchers found major differences among the couples -- 16 of whom were divorced by the end of the study -- that cut across the facts of their lives. One of the strongest predictors of marital stability, they said, was "perceived marital bond."

"If you have a strong marital bond," Buehlman said, "you give your partner a break when times are tough. With a strong bond, even if a couple doesn't agree on something, they find a way of avoiding destructive arguments because they really like each other and appreciate the differences."

The story says that the coding system should not be viewed as a tool to help people decide whether they should stay married, but rather as something therapists might employ to guide couples toward improving relationships.

Although it hasn't been tested for such use, the system might also be used by couples considering marriage to help them avoid the problems that cause so many marriages to fail.

The oral history interview and coding system are available in a 1996 book, "What Predicts Divorce: The Measures," edited by J.M. Gottman and published by Lawrence Erlbaum.


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