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U.S. News Archive
May 28 - May 31, 2000





This page contains news for the period Saturday, May 28, 2000 through Thursday, May 31, 2000.


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May 31, 2000

Minnesota welfare-to-work program helps lift single parents families out of poverty

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 new program.

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 Internet

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, Tony)

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 households declining

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 paycheck.

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 wind.

"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 life."

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 together.

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' factor.''

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 children.''

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 guy.''


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