Wednesday, December 20, 2000
Majority of public favors federal proposals
that would benefit many single people
For example, most Americans believe the estate tax is unfair
and should be completely eliminated, according to the new Zogby's "American
In the survey, conducted December 15th through December 17th of 1,005 likely voters
nationwide, 71% called the estate tax unfair to heirs and should be eliminated while only
19% said a large estate left to heirs should be taxed at a rate of 50% for anything over
$1.2 million. Another 6.4% supported neither position and 4% were not sure. The
survey also showed that while 91% of those who voted for President Elect-George W. Bush
supported elimination of the estate tax, so did 42% of those who voted for Vice President
Under current federal tax laws, a married person who dies may
leave an unlimited amount of wealth to a surviving spouse without any tax being imposed
whatsoever. However, when a single person dies, the federal government can take up
to 60 percent of the value of the estate. The repeal of the so-called "death
tax" would eliminate marital status discrimination from the federal estate tax by
removing the tax altogether. This would be a boon to wealthy single people.
Zogby's "American Values" polls are conducted quarterly to probe the strength of
fundamental values held by Americans, and to determine what will ultimately have the
greatest influences on their behavior. This is the fourth in a series of Zogby's
"American Values" surveys. The survey has a margin of sampling error of +/-3.2%.
The new survey also found majority support for an increase in
the minimum wage and little concern for the ability of small business to absorb the hike.
More than half (55%) the respondents agree that a gradual $1 increase in the minimum wage
over a three-year span would benefit low-income families and help get people off welfare
rolls. In comparison, 36% oppose the minimum wage hike on the grounds that raising
minimum pay would hurt small businesses unable to afford larger payrolls and result in a
decrease in the number of people hired for entry-level positions. An overwhelming 89% of
Gore supporters agreed with the majority
regarding a hike in the minimum wage, compared to 29% of the Bush supporters.
Studies have shown that most people earning the minimum wage
are unmarried. Therefore an increase in the minimum wage will benefit lower-income
A majority of respondents favor partial privatization of social security benefits.
Nearly 59% support employees being allowed to invest up to 2% of their Social Security
taxes in stocks and bonds, compared to 37% who say being allowed to invest a percentage of
their Social Security taxes is too risky. An overwhelming 89% of Bush supporters agreed
with the majority on the right to invest Social Security taxes compared to 22% of Gore
This plan, proposed by president-elect George W. Bush during
the presidential campaign, would help middle-income single people who pay the same
percentage into social security under current law but receive fewer benefits than married
workers. Married employees tend to live longer and therefore collect more benefits
in the long run than do unmarried workers. Also, when a married worker dies, his or
her spouse can collect survivor benefits, but when a single worker dies his or her
benefits are forfeited to the fund. Under the Bush proposal, the private portion of
a benefits plan of a single worker could be passed on to a named beneficiary or to heirs.
Sunday, December 17, 2000
Kansas paper issues editorial
against tighter single-family zoning rules
The pending bill would lower that number from four unrelated
people to two. It will have an adverse effect on many unmarried people who want to
share a residence for economic or personal reasons, especially unmarried couples with
children, college students, and seniors.
If city commissioner are not careful, they may find that an
unduly restrictive law may be declared unconstitutional by the courts. In many
states, such as California, New York, and New Jersey, Supreme Court decisions have held
that unrelated people have a constitutional right to live together and that zoning laws
that prohibit them from doing so are invalid.
Here is the full text of the editorial:
Will ordinances reducing the number of unrelated people
allowed to live in a house in a single-family zone have the effect city commissioners hope
for? It's easy to understand the frustration of local residents who bought a house years
ago in an established single-family neighborhood, only to find themselves now living in an
area dotted with rental houses, many of which are home to three, four or more unrelated
It remains to be seen, however, whether the solutions being
pursued by Lawrence city commissioners will have the desired effect in these
neighborhoods. The arguments that residents have made to city commissioners resonate with
most local homeowners. The decline in traditional families in these areas affect the
viability of schools and skew property values. Rental houses that can accommodate three or
four people are revenue-producing properties that have a much higher value to investors.
That market drives housing prices in the neighborhood up and perhaps out of the range of
young families who might want to purchase a home there.
Many of the areas in question are close to Kansas University,
although the same circumstances could easily affect other Lawrence neighborhoods as they
age and change. The difference in lifestyles between families with children and university
students spurs conflicts within neighborhoods, and the current discussions about how many
unrelated people can live in a house in a single-family zone have offended some students.
Pressure on neighborhoods may increase if rising rates in KU residence halls prompt more
students to seek off-campus housing.
To address these concerns, city commissioners agreed Tuesday
to draw up an ordinance to lower the number of unrelated people that will be allowed to
live in a house in a single-family neighborhood from four to two. Accurately noting that
such an ordinance would have little effect if it is not adequately enforced, commissioners
also ordered an accompanying ordinance requiring local landlords to register their
properties with the city.
Although the spirit of these two measures is admirable, it
still is difficult to see how they can be fairly and stringently enforced. As one landlord
pointed out after Tuesday's meeting, irresponsible landlords will do their best to avoid
registering their property. And tenants, no doubt, will do their best to circumvent
restrictions on the number of people living in a house.
What's to keep two people from signing a lease as the only
official tenants of a property and then allowing additional people to live there? And what
restrictions can be placed on guests, especially overnight guests? Even if only two people
are actually registered as living in a house, that doesn't necessarily mean that a large
number of guests wouldn't create the same sort of noise, trash and traffic problems that
single-family neighbors now complain about.
Myriad modern family situations also will complicate
enforcement. Would an unmarried couple with one child each constitute four
"unrelated" people, or is it OK as long as everyone is related to someone? Will
landlords be solely responsible for monitoring the situation?
It also will be interesting to see in the years to come what
effect these ordinances have on neighborhoods. Will housing prices fall because rental
revenue declines? Will traditional families then be able to move into these neighborhoods
and support the schools there or will they still choose to live elsewhere?
To be fair, city officials should monitor the neighborhoods
to see if the ordinances are having the desired effect. Hopefully, they will. City
commissioners' hearts are in the right place with this effort to stabilize single-family
neighborhoods. Time will tell whether these ordinances will achieve that goal or simply
prove to be a needless burden on renters and landlords.
Cincinnati's marriage rate and divorce rates decline,
causing rippling effects in society
A story published today in the Cincinnati Enquirer focused on
the state of matrimony in the greater Cincinnati area. The story says:
Fewer people say I do than did 20 years
ago and far fewer people divorce.
People wait until their late 20s and early 30s to exchange vows, resulting in a
stunning 85 percent drop in teen marriages.
More than half the women who had babies in 1998 did it alone forgoing
An Enquirer analysis of more than 14,000 Hamilton County marriage licenses in 1979
and 1999 revealed a dramatic shift in when and if people decide to marry. At a time when
family values top social and political agendas, the city that prides itself as a family
kind of place is undergoing profound change.
The analysis found marriage rates fell 23 percent in two decades, compared to a 20-percent
national decline. Divorce dropped 45 percent, three times faster than the decline
These changing marriage patterns redefine the concept of the modern family in our
neighborhoods and impact almost every part of our lives, from health and childcare to
consumer spending and poverty levels.
We're in the middle of a massive shift about what marriage means and what role it
plays in people's lives, says Dorian Solot, executive director of the Boston-based
Alternatives to Marriage Project.
Images we have of what adult life is about often center on marriage, she says.
But as Americans increasingly postpone marriage or skip it entirely we
need to update these visions of adulthood.
The Enquirer's analysis found only 64 of 5,781 marriages in 1999 involved teens 15 to 19
years old. That's an 85 percent drop in twenty years.
Instead, many young adults in Hamilton County are postponing
or even shunning marriage to compete in the work force. The changing labor
market requires young adults to have more education, skills and work experience than
previous generations to snag the best-paying jobs. They put in longer hours and frequently
job-hop to the next bigger and better position.
The story points out that dramatic changes in the lives of women also account for the
shift in marital trends. Accessible contraception means they can delay pregnancy. More
women than ever work outside the home, giving them financial success and stability that
marriage formerly provided.
Women don't have to marry to have the money to buy a house and car or even to raise a
child. They're earning it themselves.
Women don't want some guy who's a slob who just brings home the bacon. Women don't
have to put up with that kind of guy today, says Dr. David Popenoe, a sociology
professor and co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New
As a result, the average age of a groom in Hamilton County last year was 33, up 4 1/2
years from 1979. Brides were an average of 31 years old, also a 4 1/2-year jump during the
same period. First-time brides and grooms waited an average of four years longer.
Some psychologists have coined a phrase, emerging adulthood, to mean the time
between living with your parents and running your own family.
In 1950, only 2 percent of young adults 18 to 29 were not living within a family. Today
it's closer to 25 percent.
Courtship and cohabitation patterns are also changing. Today the majority of couples
who marry lived together first, says Dr. Steven Nock, a sociologist and statistician at
the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Census figures show cohabitation increased 164 percent since 1980. To better track the
numbers, the census bureau added to its 1990 form a circle for unmarried partner.
"Young people are more realistic than their parents about the chances of a successful
marriage," says Ms. Solot of Alternatives to Marriage.
They want to enter into marriages with care, she says. I think unmarried
relationships are a way of slowing things down and making sure you're not rushing into
As a result, cohabitation has evolved into a major trend, Ms. Solot says.
There's a recognition that you don't need to be married to have a healthy or
fulfilling life, she says. People see marriage isn't a magic cloak they can
put on and be protected.
The Enquirer surveyed Xavier University students taking a course on marriage and family.
Three-quarters of the 53 students who responded said they would consider living with an
unmarried partner. Only seven felt living together was morally wrong.
The students primarily were 19, 20 or 21 years old.
Just under half of the students said living together is a good way to test whether a
marriage will work. Experts say the notion of trying out a marriage is driving
much of the increase in cohabitation.
But Dr. Nock says it's a risky strategy.
There's no debate among anybody who does research ... living together increases
chances for divorce, he says. The most conservative estimates show people who live
together before marrying are three times as likely to divorce than those who do not
The question researchers are still trying to determine, Dr. Nock says, is whether
people who live together also tend to divorce or does living together precipitate
Single parenthood is also on the rise.
In Hamilton County, 40 percent of the children born in 1998
were to unwed mothers. In the city of Cincinnati, the percentage was 58. And it's not teen
pregnancy driving the increase. In Cincinnati, unwed mothers in 1979 accounted for only 23
percent of all mothers ages 22 to 34. By 1998, 45 percent of mothers ages 22 to 34 were
What is clear is that marriage is less tied to child-rearing today than in the past. In
the 1930s, if you conceived a child out of wedlock, you got married. Today, that's not a
given. A 1999 U.S. Census report says the percentage of children conceived out of wedlock
was nearly the same in the 1930s as in the 1990s. The difference: Children born out of
wedlock increased fivefold.
The combination of out-of-wedlock births and divorces translates into nearly 50 percent of
white children and two-thirds of African-American children who are likely to spend some
part of their childhood in a single-parent family, according to a report in the November
edition of the Journal of Marriage and the Family. The latest census figures show nearly a
third of children live with a single parent.
Women are marrying more for love than need, says Andrea Engber, who founded the National
Organization of Single Mothers in 1991 in North Carolina.
Rather than settling for Mr. Adequate, women are waiting for Mr. Right, Ms.
Engber says. Women don't want to take care of an immature husband and a newborn baby.
The combination of postponing marriage, living together and having children out-of-wedlock
has spurred tremendous change in the dynamics of the American family.
Ms. Solot calls for new legislation to reflect changing families. Unmarried couples need
protection from discrimination, she says. Health care is difficult to obtain for men and
women who live together and, in many areas, landlords legally can refuse to rent to
In this most recent presidential campaign, I heard a lot of talk about
families, Ms. Solot says. We need to rewrite our definitions of family, given
that a smaller and smaller percentage of families are structured around marriage.
A shift toward fewer married couples could alter the political landscape, Dr. Nock says.
Married people tend to be more conservative. Consider the presidential election. A
Portrait of America exit poll showed married voters leaned toward George W. Bush while
single voters chose Al Gore.
Already, today there are more singles in the population than ever before, Dr. Nock says.
In 1960, three out of four households contained a married couple. Today, it's little more
than half. The rate of American households with single men or women has risen from 26 to
31 percent from 1980 to 1997.
In a society with a growing number of childless singles, it could be harder to get a
school levy passed, Dr. Popenoe says. It stands to reason, he says, that the fewer people
with families, the less the concern about children. Likewise, legislation on child safety
or school reform might have a lower priority.
Shifts in marriage trends also could affect consumer spending and the economy, says Dr.
director of the University of Cincinnati's Center for Economic Education.
Single people tend to spend more on leisure activities. They go out to eat more often, to
the movies, to the theater. Even housing demands could be affected.
Non-married people would tend to opt for a different kind of housing, smaller
housing, than the Brady Bunch would, he says.
Dr. Robert Emery, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Children, Families
and the Law, maps the benefits and the downsides to the marriage trends.
Changing attitudes toward marriage afford more opportunity to escape an unfulfilling
relationship and allow people to assume different roles in life, including unmarried
partner, single parent or spouse.
On the downside, he says, unmarried couples can expect to face more economic troubles, and
children often face more struggles.
It's not the end of society or the downfall of society, Dr. Emery says.
It's a change in practice and tradition, a change in values.
Thursday, December 14, 2000
New law in Atlanta prohibits marital status
A story published today in Planet Out reports that Atlanta,
Georgia Mayor Bill Campbell on December 12
signed into law a new ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and
public accommodations based on age, disability, gender, race, religion, family status,
marital status, parental status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The law extends the city's existing civil rights protections
to a broader range of public accommodations and for the first time to private-sector as
well as city employment. It also strengthens enforcement both by clarifying the role of
the city's Human Rights Commission and by establishing discrimination as grounds for civil
lawsuits in Atlanta Municipal Court.
The author of the bill, City Councilmember Cathy Woolard said
in a statement, "All of Atlanta's citizens deserve equal protection from unfair
discrimination in all of its forms and that is what this inclusive law is about. Those who
supported this common-sense measure can be proud of this triumph for all of Atlanta. This
legislation, which brings our non-discrimination ordinances in line with other major
cities across the country, is a tribute to our city's core values of fairness and
Seeking election to the City Council Presidency in 2001, Woolard became Georgia's first
openly lesbian or gay elected official in 1997.