May 28, 2001
still makes children feel alone
A story released today by the Associated Press
reports that the University of Chicago's biennial General Social Survey, taken last year,
found that more than a fifth of children in surveyed households lived in single-parent
homes -- a fourfold increase since the first survey in 1972. The 2000 Census found a
Lauren is one of those children.
Most of the time, she lives with her mother
just outside Traverse City, a Lake Michigan resort town that is home to about 78,000
people. She's with her dad, a doctor who lives nearby, on Wednesday nights and many
``We both get a lot of special one-on-one time
with her,'' says Lauren's mother, Kim Coleman, a pediatrician. ``So that's been one good
thing to come out of a difficult situation.''
Still, in the last year, Coleman has noticed
Lauren worrying more about what people think, setting off those familiar butterflies or a
case of the ``angries'' when the divorce, or her father's more recent split from his
second wife, come up.
``When it bothers you,'' Lauren says, sitting
on her bed at her mom's house, ``it bothers you a lot.''
However, there are those children who say
divorce has actually improved their lives.
``At first, it was the most horrible thing,''
says 14-year-old Tori Schemelia, who lives in East Windsor, N.J., with her father and his
new wife. Now, says her 10-year-old sister, Emily, ``there's no yelling at all.''
With the growing number of children going
through divorce today, experts say services for them are sorely lacking, especially in a
legal system known for pitting parent against parent.
Andrew Schepard, director of the Center for
Children, Families and Law at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island, helped found a
court-based program in his county that is one of a small but growing number that provide
social workers and therapists specifically for children of divorcing parents.
The many children from divorced families she
was seeing in her medical practice -- and the lack of coordinated services -- also
inspired Lauren's mom to help set up the Divorce Resource Center in Traverse City 18
She hopes what's starting as an information
hot line will grow into a nonprofit center with everything from neutral space for parents
to exchange children to bus service to the local women's shelter.
``Divorce is a part of our culture,'' Coleman
says. ``We can either pretend it isn't there, or we can provide resources for people who
are trying to make that transition.''
Among other things, the center tracks services
for children, including a support group at one elementary school for students whose
parents have split. Students at Sabin Elementary call it the ``divorce club.''
To get them talking, social worker Deb
Newhouse sometimes hands students a backpack full of rocks painted with the names of
feelings and emotions that may be weighing them down.
``I'm always amazed how much they know what
that is,'' Newhouse says.
In the end, kids often find they share the
``They want their parents to get along. They
want to know it's not their fault,'' she says. ``And they want to know that even though
the family looks different, they'll be taken care of.''
One of the big things on Lauren's mind lately
is her mother's upcoming marriage in August.
She admits that she's having trouble sharing
her mom with her new boyfriend. And she says she's also trying to give up a longtime
dream: that her parents will get back together.
``It's like wanting a doll that costs a
billion dollars,'' Lauren says.
Her mom is aware of Lauren's feeling -- and
divorce statistics. A new federal study found that nearly 40 percent of second marriages
for women end in separation or divorce within 10 years.
But she's optimistic her new marriage will
give Lauren the sense of family she's been craving.
``I used to feel so bad for Lauren. I mean, my
dad used to come home and give my mom a hug and a kiss. They've always been so respectful
of one another,'' Coleman says.
``I want Lauren to know what that's like. And
I think she will -- I really do.''
slow to target nontraditional families
A story published today by the Wall Street Journal
reports that corporate America is catching on to the changing makeup of the United States
household, but it's moving gingerly to avoid appearing condescending or even irritating to
the very consumers it wants to reach.
The traditional family -- married couples with children
younger than 18 years -- constituted only 23.5 percent of all United States households in
2000, according to new census data. Such families represented 30.2 percent of households
in 1980 and 45 percent in 1960.
Madison Avenue is now hungry to tap the groups that now
make up the other 76.5 percent of United States households which are comprised of single
parents, unmarried couples, divorced or never-married individuals and older married
couples whose kids no longer live at home. But marketers are cautious because they
haven't figured out which products lend themselves to such targeted pitches.
The number of single mothers, for example, soared 25
percent in the past decade to 7.6 million, but "most companies are advertising toward
married moms," says Stan Dragoti, a partner at Omnicom Group Inc.'s Moss/Dragoti.
Commercials by the New York agency for Hertz and Dannon water, for instance, will feature
kids and the traditional married-parents family structure.
One company bucking the trend is Charles Schwab Corp.
In January, Schwab debuted a TV commercial featuring Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of
York and a divorced mom, is heard telling a little girl a bedtime story about a beautiful
young lady who is whisked away by a knight to a castle, married and given all her heart's
desires, "forever and ever."
The ad ends with a shot of Ferguson quipping: "Of
course, if it doesn't work out, you'll need to understand the difference between a P/E
ratio and a dividend yield, a growth versus a value strategy" -- a plug for Schwab's
online stock research.
Schwab is eager to reach single women because they have
heightened interest in financial strategies, says Jack Calhoun, senior vice president for
advertising and brand management at Schwab. "Sarah Ferguson has a real-life story
that people can relate to and a life change that requires you to take control of your
financial situations and build your confidence," he says. "Anybody can relate to
that life change and needing to take control."
Advertisers, however, are willing to go only so
far in experimenting with their messages in fear of a social backlash. When John Hancock
Financial Services ran an ad last year with a lesbian couple bringing an adopted baby back
from China, the company didn't include shots of the couple kissing.
Tony Kaye, the commercial's director, says there's a
good reason why most companies still strive to show nuclear families in TV spots: "If
someone wants to buy a red pair of socks, it doesn't matter what they are -- married,
single or part of a family." Deviating from what society still perceives to be
typical family might distract from the product -- the socks.
The new census data clearly show the continuing
transformation of American family life. The number of unmarried couples living together,
for instance, soared 72 percent during the 1990s to 5.5 million households. Their numbers,
though, are still small compared with the 54.5 million households headed by married
couples, and other government surveys have showed a slowing in the trends away from
traditional families in the latter years of the '90s.
Young & Rubicam, a unit of London-based WPP Group
PLC, made advertising history in 1997 when it developed the "Beaches" commercial
to help AT&T promote its wireless business. The ad showed a harried, working mom
paying little attention to her three children as she prepares for her day. After she tells
them she has an important meeting with a client, one of her little girls asks: "Mom,
when can I be a client?" She thinks, then tells the kids to put on their swimsuits,
then conducts a meeting via cell phone from the beach.
Jim Ferguson, president and chief creative officer at
Y&R New York, says such work remains the exception, noting, "There aren't a lot
of companies gearing their efforts to single moms and unmarried couples."
Sunday, May 27, 2001
prepares for disbursement of rebate checks
A story released today by the Associated Press
reports that with President Bush poised to order rebates for nearly 100 million
taxpayers, the Treasury Department is preparing a customized computer program that
will sort through Internal Revenue Service records and issue checks ranging from $300
to $600, most by the end of September
The $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut package
Bush intends to sign during the first week of June is retroactive to the beginning of the
year, and the rebates are to adjust for overpayment. They reflect the first year of a new
10 percent income tax rate on the initial $6,000 of an individual's income, $12,000 for
Married couples will get checks for $600;
single parents will receive $500; and single taxpayers will get $300
When lawmakers and the White House began
discussing the possibility of refunds as a quick economic stimulus, the Treasury
Department quietly began preparing for a burst of check-writing activity. Still, it will
take up to four months to complete the process, officials said
Bush and many lawmakers were eager to send as
much money back to taxpayers as quickly as possible, arguing that doing so could boost the
economy. The rebate checks, along with decreasing tax withholdings, will also allow the
tax-cut advocates to claim victory as they look ahead to next year's elections.
Thursday, May 24, 2001
Majority of Americans
view pre-marital sex and divorce as morally okay
A story released by the Gallup News Service
reports that while it is not exactly becoming extinct, the American nuclear family of the
"Ozzie and Harriet" days is in decline. Since 1960, the percentage of households
comprised of a married couple with children has fallen from 45% to 24%. Just in the past
decade, the number of "nonfamily" households rose at twice the rate of family
households. Similarly, the percentage of single-mother families rose three times as fast
as married-couple families according to the recently released 2000 Census report.
In order to determine the rate of nuclear families in the U.S. population,
Gallup poll focused on values and beliefs that would shed light on how Americans feel
about marriage, the desired number of children in the family, and the concept of divorce.
The change in viewing pre-marital sex
In the days when pre-marital sex was taboo, many couples had at least one powerful
incentive to marry. This may have been the case in 1969 when Gallup found that premarital
sex was frowned upon by two-thirds of Americans, while only 21% felt these relations were
acceptable. Today, according to a May 10-14 Gallup poll, only 38% of U.S. adults say it is
wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage, while 60% of those
Americans even went a step further, with a majority, 52%, sanctioning
"living together" as a morally acceptable lifestyle. Less than half, 41%, hold
on to the "living in sin" belief, saying it is morally unacceptable for an
unmarried couple to live together; 3% think it depends on the situation, and 2% say it is
not a moral issue.
Changing the size of the family unit
In addition to liberalized sexual mores, there has been a change in family size
expectations that may partially account for people marrying later in life. According to
Gallup trends dating back 65 years, there has been a substantial decline in
Americans preferences for large families.
Today, the majority (52%) say that less than three children is ideal,
while 38% prefer larger families of three or more children. Between 1967 and 1973 the
percentage favoring three or more children fell from 70% to 43%. Preference for smaller
families continued to grow until 1986 when it peaked at 66%, after which it declined
Divorce socially accepted by most
When married couples run into hard times today there appears to be
relatively little pressure to force them to stay together. Nearly three in five Americans,
59%, tell Gallup that they think divorce is morally acceptable, and another 12% say it
depends on the situation. Only 28% feel divorce is morally unacceptable.
Marriage still a common practice
In spite of these forces that might be responsible for weakening the
institution of marriage, the vast majority of Americans (75%) tell Gallup that they have
been married at some point in their life, and a majority (52%) are currently married. Only
one in 14 adults (7%) is currently living together with a partner. According to a recent
Gallup poll, about twelve percent of Americans are divorced and another three percent are
separated. However, this doesnt fully capture the rate of failed marriages, as
many who were divorced in the past may have remarried and would be recorded as currently
married in Gallups survey.
Among those Gallup respondents who report having a child under 18, 66% are
currently married -- representing 23% of all Americans. Another 23% of parents are either
divorced or have never been married, while 8% are currently living together with a partner
Clayton county single employees granted death benefits
A story published today by the Atlanta Journal
Constitution reports that the retirement income for Georgia's Clayton County single
employees can now become a death benefit for designated beneficiaries, but on a more
limited basis than benefits received by surviving spouses.
The County Commission last week approved a major revamp
of the county's pension plan. In addition to the beneficiary provision for single
employees, the amended plan lowers the normal retirement age from 65 to 60.
County Attorney Don Comer said the previous pension
document allowed married employees to choose from several options for disposition of
benefits from the retirement system after death. But the only benefit received by the
estate of a single employee was a return of the employee's pension plan contribution
amount. Now the plan allows designated beneficiaries of unmarried employees to receive
pension benefit checks based on provisions of one option available to married employees.
Married employees, Comer explained, may choose one of
three options for retirement death benefits. First, they may choose a plan that continues
retirement checks to a spouse for up to five years after the employee's death, Comer said.
This is the only plan now offered for single employees, he said.
Under that option, if the retiree dies six years after
retirement, "that's the end of it," whether the employee was married or single,
Clayton County has had a pension plan since 1971, but
the last major revision was in 1995, Comer said.
CDC study shows that first
marriages are more likely to fail
A story released today by CNN News reports that a report
released by the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 43
percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce with in 15 years.The report from
the Atlanta based group also showed that one in three first marriages end within 10
years and one in five end within five years.
In the CDC report, how long a marriage lasted appeared to be
linked to how old the woman in the relationship was when the marriage began. Researchers
said the older a woman was when she first got married, the longer that marriage was likely
For example, 59 percent of marriages to brides under 18 end
in separation or divorce within 15 years, compared with 36 percent of those married at age
20 or older.
CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan said the numbers are significant
to the health-care field because separation and divorce can adversely affect the health of
both adults and children.
"Past research has shown that divorce is associated with
higher rates of mortality, more health problems, and more risky behaviors such as
increased alcohol use," he said.
Other conclusions of the report included:
About 97 percent of separated non-Hispanic
white women are divorced within five years of separation, compared with 77 percent of
separated Hispanic women and only 67 percent of non-Hispanic black women.
Younger women who divorce are more likely
to remarry: 81 percent of those divorced before age 25 remarry within 10 years, compared
with 68 percent of those divorced at age 25 or later.
Non-Hispanic black women are less likely
than other women to remain in a first marriage, to make the transition from separation to
divorce, to remarry, and to remain in a remarriage.
"These data offer an important glimpse into the social
fabric of this country," said Dr. Edward Sondik, director of CDC's National Center
for Health Statistics, which conducted the study. "The implications of divorce cut
across a number of societal issues, socioeconomics, health, and the welfare of our
The findings are based on data from the 1995 National Survey
of Family Growth, a study of 10,847 women 15 to 44 years of age.
Key provisions of the Senate
An article published today by the Seattle Times highlights the Senate's tax-relief
package that is currently being debated in the Senate floor. The
following key provision on the tax relief package are:
New 10 percent tax rate created retroactive to 2001. Applies to the first $6,000 of
taxable income for single people, $12,000 for the married couples filing jointly.
Other rates drop 1 percentage point each in 2002, 2005 and 2007. Rates drop from
39.6 percent to 36 percent; 36 percent to 33 percent; 31 percent to 28 percent; 28 percent
to 25 percent.
15 percent rate remains
Standard deduction for married couples will be gradually raised so it is equal to
twice that of single taxpayers. If in effect this year, the deduction would be $9,100
instead of $7,600 for a married couple.
15 percent tax bracket will be gradually enlarged so
it applies to more of a married couple's income, equal to twice that of singles. If fully
in effect this year, the lowest tax rate would apply to $54,100 of a couple's income
instead of $45,200.
Income limit for earned-income-tax credit expanded
Tax repealed in 2011.
Top 55 percent rate immediately dropped to 50
percent, eventually to 45 percent.
Current $675,000 individual exemption raised to $1
million in 2002, $2 million in 2004, $3 million in 2006, $4 million in 2010.
Tax retained on certain gifts but rate reduced to 40
Tax-favored contribution limits for individual retirement accounts and Roth IRAs
gradually raised from $2,000 to $5,000. No change in income limits.
Tax-deferred contribution limits for 401(k)-type
plans gradually increased from $10,500 to $15,000.
Lower-income people get credit for half of
contributions up to $2,000.
Maximum $5,000 deduction for higher-education tuition lowered to $2,000 for incomes
between $130,000 and $160,000. Phases out above that level.
Limit on deductibility of student-loan interest
Child credit rises from $500 to $600 effective in 2001, meaning it could be claimed
on next year's tax forms. Rises in $100 increments to $1,000 by 2010. Income limits stay
Taxpayers earning more than $10,000 could claim a
credit of 15 percent of earnings above that income level. They cannot claim the credit
Tuesday, May 22, 2001
Congress debates government
involvement in marriage
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Congress dove into the
sensitive issue on whether the government should interfere in the personal lives of
welfare recipients by encouraging marriage.
Two points appeared clear during a hearing Tuesday before a House Ways and Means
subcommittee: Children who grow up in two-parent families are better off, and government
knows very little about what it can do to encourage unwed parents to walk down the aisle.
A 1996 welfare overhaul specifically listed promoting marriage and encouraging the
formation of two-parent families among its goals, but with minimal data and little public
consensus about the role of government, few states have used their welfare money to this
Conservatives in the Bush administration, in Congress and in think tanks are suggesting
that Congress should require states to spend some of their money promoting marriage or at
least set aside some dollars for experimental programs.
``When we look at the tremendous negative effects of children growing up in broken homes,
it behooves us to move expeditiously,'' said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., chairman of the
Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources.
He added that while more investigation is needed, he finds considerable interest among his
colleagues. ``I hear a lot of enthusiasm for moving forward,'' he said.
Democrats at Tuesday's hearing were considerably more cautious.
``We need to be honest about the lack of information we have,'' said Rep. Benjamin Cardin,
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., questioned whether states would want the federal government
telling them how they have to spend their money.
Arizona and Oklahoma, however, have used welfare money to create pro-marriage programs.
Both programs are in their early stages, and it's unclear how effective they will be.
``The mission of welfare reform should be to reduce poverty and help people achieve
economic independence,'' said Laurie Rubiner of the National Partnership for Women
&Families, ``not to engage in social engineering or discrimination against families
that don't meet a particular ideal.''
Monday, May 21, 2001
The new face of the American family
A news story article published today by Newsweek reports
that according to the newly released census report, the number of families headed by
single mothers has increased 25 percent since 1990, to more than 7.5 million
Demographers now predict that more than half of the
children born in the 1990's will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent
environment. The census also indicated that the number of single fathers raising kids
on their own is on the rise; they now head just over 2 million families.
Politicians from the White House on down, on the other
hand, have been focusing on strengthening families and the institution of marriage.
President George W. Bush believes that funding religious initiatives is one way
Washington can foster family stability. Some states, such as Arizona and Louisiana, have
established "covenant" marriages in which engaged couples are required to get
"We can encourage, pressure, preach and give
incentives to get people to marry," says Stephanie Coontz, author of "The Way We
Never Were" and a family historian at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.
"But still we have to deal with the reality that kids are going to be raised in a
variety of ways, and we have to support all kinds of families with kids."
To read the full story please go to: http://www.msnbc.com./news/575968.asp
Divorce rates soar in bible belt
A story published today by the Contra Costa Times reports that a posse of public health
nurses, social workers, pastors and extension agents have been deputized to help bring
down a divorce rate in Oklahoma. The governor, the Baptist leadership and the anti-divorce
movement are collectively struggling to avert collisions between naive notions of wedded
bliss and the reality of marriage.
It has been about four years since politicians here and in several other states began to
acknowledge a troubling paradox: The divorce rate in much of the area where evangelical
Christianity is particularly strong is roughly 50 percent above the national average.
In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, declared a "marital emergency" in
1999 and vowed to curb the divorce rate in half by 2010.
He signed a covenant marriage law last month that allows couples to choose a marital
contract that, in most cases, would require a two-year waiting period before a divorce
became final. Louisiana has enacted similar laws, as has Arizona.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Frank Keating, also a Republican, diagnosed divorce as a principal cause
of poverty in his state.
He started a much publicized, multipronged campaign, paid for with $10 million in federal
welfare money, to cut the divorce rate by one-third in 10 years.
The Oklahoma Legislature, controlled by Democrats, has all but killed the governor's
proposals for covenant marriage and the removal of mutual incompatibility as grounds for
But it has passed several of his other proposals, measures that call for creating a
statewide network for premarital education and for training secular and religious marriage
"Seventy percent of our people go to church once a week or more," Keating said.
"These divorce statistics are a scalding indictment of what isn't being said behind
The Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention in Oklahoma,
"We are responsible," he said. "We are good in helping young people plan a
wedding, but not in planning a marriage. And in our desire to be compassionate to those
who are going through a divorce, the church has watered down a strong message in regard to
the ills and sins of divorce."
Despite the efforts of the last several years, the institution of marriage is losing
ground by some measures. The census found that in the 1990s the number of unmarried
couples living together jumped by 97 percent in Oklahoma, 125 percent in Arkansas and 123
percent in Tennessee.
These increases in the heart of the area are well above the 72 percent increase in
unmarried couples that the census found in the nation as a whole.
For the first time, the census showed that married couples with children made up less than
a quarter of the U.S. population (23.5 percent). In Oklahoma, the percentage of such
nuclear families was fractionally lower (23.2 percent).
"Those numbers are a total reflection of marriage as an institution that is losing
its appeal," said Jerry Regier, Oklahoma's secretary of health and human services.
"Our society has been overwhelmed by divorce."