|May 31, 2000
Minnesota welfare-to-work program helps lift single parents families out
A story published today by the Associated Press
reports that people in a welfare reform program that pushed recipients to find work but
preserved many of their benefits wound up with more stable lives as well as more money,
according to a nonpartisan report released Wednesday.
The Minnesota Family Investment Program's
participants, many of them single parents, found and held jobs in greater numbers, had
more stable marriages and saw their children do better in school than people who were on
traditional welfare, the report from the New York nonprofit Manpower Demonstration
Research Corp. found.
Experts said the report, commissioned by Minnesota and federal
agencies, helped address one of the biggest concerns about welfare reform: whether people
leaving the rolls are really better off.
"This is the first study that has shown (positive) impacts on
family composition, on domestic violence
and on children,'' said Ron Haskins, staff director of the U.S.
House Ways and Means Committee panel that rewrote welfare laws.
The Minnesota program, which was implemented in several counties
from 1994 to 1998 before being adopted statewide, was unusual because it aimed to
simultaneously encourage work, reduce dependence on public assistance and reduce poverty.
Over that time, 14,000 welfare cases were randomly split into two
groups, one that received traditional assistance and the other that was switched to the
The reform increased employment by 35 percent, increased earnings by
23 percent and reduced poverty by 68 percent.
Non-financial factors changed as well. By the end of the third year,
10.6 percent of reform recipients had gotten married, compared with 7 percent of parents
still in the traditional program. Twenty percent more of those already married stayed wed,
and domestic abuse of mothers was 18 percent lower among reform participants.
More than 40 states now have used variations of Minnesota's ``make
work pay'' approach into their welfare programs.
The state's caseload has dropped from 64,400 families at its high in
1994 to 41,000 today.
The reform program cost taxpayers substantially more per family than
the old system, at least in the short run: an additional $1,900 to $3,800 a year over five
years. The study did not estimate government savings that may accrue in the long run
because of things like reduced child poverty or domestic violence.
The incentives had the greatest effect on single-parent families,
most of whom moved into full-time jobs and brought home significantly bigger paychecks.
For example, a single mother of two in the reform program who chose
not to work would receive a grant of $789 per month. Working full time at $6 an hour, she
would make $1,032. Combining her earnings with a $228 Minnesota Family Investment Program
grant, her total income would be $1,260 -- $471 more than if she didn't work.
New magazine for dads launches tomorrow on
A story released today by PRNewswire reports that a
new magazine for dads will be launched on the Internet tomorrow. Look for dadmag.com.
The online magazine will have all the stuff that guys like whether
they have kids or not -- sports, cars, sex, fitness, gadgets, travel -- plus many features
geared specifically toward fathers.
The dad stuff will include:
-- Savvy parenting advice from experts (including Dear Dad and
Doctor Dad) -- plus real-life wisdom from men who've been there
-- Straight talk for men in transition -- dads in the throes of
divorce and custody disputes
The launch edition features:
-- John McCain on the joys of fatherhood ... and adoption
-- Bo Jackson on playing tough... with kids
-- Tony Randall on How Late is Too Late?
-- Top chef Charlie Trotter on cooking with kids
-- A dadmag survey on Paternity Leave (the empire can run itself,
The news release says that dadmag's mission is to provide men with
kids a much-needed home online. In print, men's magazines refuse to acknowledge that guys
have children. According to the release, the so-called "parenting magazines" are
directed solely to moms. The aim of dadmag.com is to provide compelling information in the
lively environment that men want.
The publishers says they will feature the best writers' writing and
a distinguished Board of Advisers. They plan an engaged community for dads -- married
dads, divorced dads, dating dads, gay dads and step-dads.
Worker-dad with homemaker-mom
A column published today in the Detroit Free Press
discusses the declining numbers of traditional families with a wage-earner husband and
homemaker-wife raising minor children.
The columnist reports that according to surveys by the U.S.
Department of Labor most married couples with children are now dual-earner families.
The percentage of married-with-children couples in which only dad
works outside the home has been falling steadily for two decades, from a high of 29
percent in 1986 to about 21 percent in 1998.
The percentage of wives with children younger than 18 participating
in the labor force has grown during the same period from 61 percent to 70 percent. Among
wives with children 6 to 13 years old, participation in the labor force jumped from 68
percent to 76 percent.
The only spouses bucking the trend toward absentee parenting are a
small number of stay-at-home dads. The percentage of married-with-children couples in
which only the wife worked swelled from 4.6 in 1986 to 5.7 in 1998. But that amounted to
only 3 million households in which stay-at-home dads held the fort while mom earned a
Fewer and later marriages in
Michigan, with more late-in-life divorces
A story published today in the Detroit Free Press
says that depending on your optimism quotient, the state of marriage and divorce in
Michigan is either refreshing or alarming.
People are marrying less -- between 1980 and 1998, the number of
newlyweds plummeted from 86,000 to 67,000 -- and if they do at all, they're loping toward
middle age. They're also divorcing in their 80s and 90s, seemingly throwing caution to the
"Nowadays people are around together for a longer period of
time, and when people move into retirement, that is a big adjustment," said Rita
Casey, director of Wayne State University's Merrill Palmer Institute for Child and Family
Development. "You have to re-examine what the goals are for the rest of your
Older couples may be taking cues from their baby boomer kids, who
are divorcing in much higher numbers, many of them happily, said Karen Schrock, director
of Adult Well Being Services in Detroit.
"They're influencing their parents to look at their
relationships differently," she said.
Divorce attorneys Harriet Rotter of Birmingham and Albert Holtz of
Bloomfield Hills both see older clients in bigger numbers.
"I guess people are living longer and they feel less old, if
that's the right way to put it," Rotter said. She's noticed that fatter bank
accounts, retirement accounts and mutual funds are also making it easier for the
breadwinner to leave with less guilt.
Six years ago, Holtz mediated a divorce between a pair of
80-somethings from Waterford Township who, over the course of 50 years, were married,
divorced and remarried to each other. They were finally at the end of their journey
That scenario has become more common, he said.
"I remember one woman saying, 'I may not have a lot of years
left, but I'm going to be happy'," Holtz said. "When older people start
believing that nobody's going to judge them for what they do, they think it's OK for them
to do it."
Peter Lichtenberg of the Institute for Gerontology at Wayne State
said he presumes that later divorce could enlarge the growing pool of women in poverty.
Then again, he said, people are also holding onto good health much longer.
"There is something optimistic about these divorcing people who
still want to achieve some of their personal goals," Lichtenberg said.
If money, drugs and the destigmatization of divorce have opened new
doors for older people, they may be giving younger people a reason to postpone marriage.
Since 1980, the only people marrying in growing numbers in Michigan are older than 35.
"The fact is, there are more young adults in the world who saw
their parents divorced. If you've been stung by that as a kid, I think it makes you more
reluctant to jump into marriage," said Casey, of Wayne State. If and when they do,
they might be walking into marriage with a clearer perspective and the maturity to make it
work, she said.
Colorado case highlights Muslim
condemnation of premarital affection
A story published today in the Denver Post reports
that leaders of Denver's Muslim community decried the alleged actions of Harry Saleh, but
one said physical forms of parental punishment often are considered necessary to deter
premarital sex among Islamic teenagers.
Saleh, a Denver resident, appeared in court this week on charges
that he hit his 16-year-old daughter with a stick, then handcuffed her to a bed because
she kissed a boy in a car.
Emamudin Ghiasi, chairman of the Colorado Muslim Society Islamic
Center, said some types of physical punishment should be enforced to prevent Islamic law
from being broken.
"For Muslims, it is not as if we just go to church on Fridays.
We have to live by the laws and regulations . . . not created by man but prescribed in the
Koran," Ghiasi said. "I think punishment should be there to prevent these things
from happening again."
Unmarried Islamic men and women are forbidden to be alone, date or
touch before they wed to preserve the sanctity of commitment, Ghiasi said.
Sins in Islam fall under two types, great sins and small sins, said
Omid Nejad, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Ahl Al-Beit. Kissing before marriage
could be characterized as a lesser sin, Nejad said. Premarital sex, lying and adultery are
greater sins, he said.
"I'm not a judge; I have to hear his side, and I have to hear
her side," Nejad said. "But this is not the way Muslims should act."
Mohamad Jodeh, who is active in the local Muslim community and owns a restaurant in
Denver, said any form of violence or abuse is frowned upon in the Islamic faith.
"It's totally unacceptable to kiss before you're married, but hitting is rude and
unacceptable, even in Islam," Jodeh said.
But Ghiasi said if this had happened in an Islamic society, Saleh
probably wouldn't be punished. "It's seldom that (a man and a woman would be alone)
in these cultures," he said. "But if it did happen, the father would not be
punished by the government because the law requires he enforce Islamic law on his family,
even if that means hitting."
May 28, 2000
Polls show 'marital status gap'
currently helping Bush
A story published today in the Boston Globe reports
that recent polls show that a "marriage gap" in voting preferences is larger
than the "gender gap" and is currently making Bush the frontrunner.
Something odd is happening to Gore, by all accounts a happily
married and faithful husband, a devoted father and doting grandfather, and a conscientious
advocate for families. He has fallen into a yawning ''marriage gap'' that is mostly about
morality, somewhat about his masculinity, minimally about issues, and, if not reversed,
could doom him on Election Day.
Republican candidates typically get a larger share of the vote from
married adults. But what pollsters have seen this month is something new.
Bush leads Gore by 26 points among married men and 14 points among
married women in a Los Angeles Times poll, and Bush is ahead of Gore by 30 points among
white, married mothers in the Voter.com Battleground poll.
''The gender gap is closing,'' said Celinda Lake, the Battleground
pollster who has studied the decided preference of women for the Democratic ticket in the
last two presidential elections. ''The marriage gap now rivals the gender gap as a
hallmark feature of Americans' voting patterns.''
Gore's team is not panicking, despite the polls and the anecdotal
warnings from married voters, including many parents. It is early, they say, adding that
they believe a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz stressing Gore's good-guy biography
and a clearer definition in presidential debates of his positions on family issues will
narrow the gap and give the vice president the advantage he must regain with married women
to beat Bush. Gore now leads among unmarried men and women, polls show.
''This is obviously a reflection of what the president went through
last year. There is no reason why marriage alone should have this effect, except that the
president wasn't an ideal married man,'' said a senior Gore adviser who did not want to be
identified. ''The fact that married people are appalled doesn't have anything to do with
Gore per se, but there is this sort of pox on both your houses, a leftover `yuck'
His personal family values and the country's prosperity
notwithstanding, Gore is apparently being found guilty by association with a president
who, while he retains broad national popularity, is viewed by many parents in particular
as a man who coarsened a culture that already assaults their children, and set a bad moral
example. It is not that married people believe they will get magic from Bush, but many
hope a new broom will sweep clean.
''Despite the good economic news and general social optimism, the
one thing people remain pessimistic about is how things are going with children,'' said
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, an Amherst author who studies marriage trends. ''Baby boomers, no
matter how libertarian they once were, have a sense that with the sex, drugs, violence,
and lack of strong adult role models, this is not a very good environment for raising
By portraying Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole as a bit of
an old crank out of touch with soccer moms and dads, Clinton and Gore kept the marriage
gap small in 1996. But Bush, who talks the modern-man talk of nurturing his twin
daughters, respecting his wife, and inheriting his parents' values, has baby-boomer
credentials that rival Gore's, plus a non-threatening ''compassionate conservative''
approach and an agenda portrayed as being family-friendly.
University of Virginia sociologist Steven L. Nock, who has written
about the relationship between marriage and masculinity, said he is not surprised that
Gore is unpopular with many married men. ''Less forceful, less aggressive, less assertive
- that would not appeal to married men,'' Nock said. He said Gore comes across as a weak
person, ''someone who doesn't take strong positions and basically is not a very masculine