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U.S. News Archive
February 21 - February 28, 2002



This page contains news for the period February 21, 2002 through February 28, 2002.  

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

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Women business group offers opinion to lawmakers in Social Security subcommittee

A story released today by PRNewswire reports that Niesha M.Wolfe, CEO of a CPA firm in Clarksville, Tenn. told the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security today that the current ‘pay as you go’ Social Security system will become a serious drag on the economy if it is no reformed soon.

Wolfe was testifying on behalf of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), representing more than 250,000 women business owners nationwide.

Wolfe pointed out that several factors lead to differential treatment for women under the current system including:

-- Women, on average, have lower lifetime earnings than men.

-- Higher poverty rates for elderly women persist under the current system. Large increases in divorce rates over the past decades will mean more elderly women without the income protections traditionally available to married women and widows.

WIPP also presented Congress with specific proposals for making Social Security viable for all Americans, including and especially women:

-- Permit workers to invest their retirement payroll taxes (FICA) in individually directed personal retirement accounts (PRA's).

-- Oppose any increase in payroll taxes. FICA is already one of the largest and most burdensome tax small business owners pay. Raising taxes to avoid benefit cuts could put many first- generation business owners out of business.

-- Guarantee a "safety net" (minimum government benefit) for all retirees.

-- Preserve the benefits of retirees and near retirees.

-- Oppose general revenue transfers (primarily income taxes) to Social Security in the absence of structural reforms.


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Washington policy makers trumpeting on the marriage mantra


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that after years of what one researcher calls an "enforced spell of silence," marriage is the new battle cry among Washington policy-makers who want to nudge unmarried parents toward the altar to improve their lives and those of their children.

"We will work to strengthen marriage," President Bush proclaimed this week in announcing welfare reform proposals that include spending up to $200 million a year on pro-marriage programs.

Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says talking about the impact of marriage on social problems became "politically incorrect" in the years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a future senator, prompted charges of racism with his 1965 report on the breakdown of the black family.

"It's back, now," says Rector, "and it's a more honest discussion this time around."

One reason the welfare conversation is coming back to marriage is that some 80 percent of child poverty occurs among youth from broken families or unwed parents. Nearly a third of all American children are being born out of wedlock, and children raised by never-married mothers are seven times more likely to live in poverty than those raised by married, biological parents.

Bush says kids in two-parent families are also less likely to drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, suffer abuse or end up in prison.

But some worry the "pro-marriage" camp may get carried away about the benefits of matrimony.

A three-city study released earlier this month by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found a slight increase in poor children growing up in two-parent households.

"I think marriage is overrated as a cure for the problems of children in low-income families," said Andrew Chernin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the study. "No one is anti-marriage, but I don't believe that the benefits of marriage policy are as high as some others do.''

Libertarians reject the whole idea of government trying to steer people to the altar. ``It's a bit silly,'' said Kimble Ainslie, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002


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Study says Bush welfare plan flawed


A story released today by Ascribe News reports that according to recent census figures, 6 percent of married couple families with children live in poverty, compared to 33 percent of families headed by single moms. To many, the conclusion seems obvious. Marry off those single moms and they reduce their risk of poverty by a factor of more than 5, right?

However, according to a new analysis to be released next week by researchers affiliated with the Council on Contemporary Families. Social scientists Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College and Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, find that lack of marriage is sometimes a symptom rather than a root cause of poverty, and that encouraging people to marry without giving them long-term support systems may do more harm than good.

The report, "Marriage, Poverty, and Public Policy," was prepared for the fifth annual conference of the Council on Contemporary Families, which will be held at Fordham University in New York from April 26-28.

"The idea that lack of marriage causes poverty contains an important kernel of truth," says Coontz, "because married people can pool income and share child-care more effectively than single or separated parents."

"But a kernel of truth does not make a balanced meal, especially when it is puffed up into the equivalent of movie theatre popcorn and drenched with artificial, unhealthy ingredients such as the myth that any two-parent family is better than one, or that stable marriages can be formed and sustained if we just give people a sprinkling of premarital counseling."added Coontz

Coontz and Folbre report that men who become unwed fathers are more than twice as likely as married fathers to be unemployed and to have physical or psychological problems that interfere with their ability to hold a job. They are far less likely than other men to form and sustain stable relationships, while men who have stable jobs tend to seek mates who also have higher educational levels and earnings potential.

Co-author Nancy Folbre suggests that politicians are naive about the realities of impoverished mothers' lives. "Often," she explains, "impoverished women have more than one child by different fathers. Which father should she marry, and what plans does government have to help her stabilize a complicated blended family?" Folbre points out that the high risk of divorce in modern America is magnified among couples who face economic stress. "A marriage that ends in divorce after a few years does not help children economically and may harm them emotionally more than stable residence in a single-parent family."



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Welfare views slowly unfolding

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the differences over how Congress should change its landmark 1996 welfare overhaul have become more evident among the major players including President Bush, governors and congressional Democrats.

The differences are nowhere as great as they were in 1996, when Congress ended a six-decade guarantee of cash help to the poorest Americans, gave the states vast power to shape their programs and set a time limit on benefits. But the differences are real.

A look at the major issues on the table:

--Promoting marriage:

Most welfare recipients are single mothers and their children. Conservatives say children would be off the rolls if government nudged their parents to the altar. Few states have done much, though, partly because no one knows what might work.

At issue is whether to devote a special pot of money to programs aimed at promoting marriage, how much it should include and what programs would qualify.

Bush wants to spend up to $200 million each year in federal money, with another $100 million coming from states that want to participate.

--Benefits for legal immigrants:

Under current law, people who arrived here after 1996 will never be eligible for food stamps and disability, and they are barred from cash welfare and Medicaid until they've been in the country five years.

Bush would lift the lifetime ban on food stamps, making them eligible after five years. Rep. Benjamin Cardin’s bill would restore most of these benefits completely. The National Governors' Association recommends the same.

Many House Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to oppose even Bush's limited move on food stamps.

--Time limits:

The 1996 law limited people to five years of cash welfare over their lifetimes, though states are allowed to exempt up to 20 percent of their caseloads. Many states have shorter time limits.

Cardin and governors want to extend time limits for people who are working but earning so little that they still get welfare. The Bush plan recommends no change.


Under current law, states get $16.5 billion in welfare grants each year. There's another $4.8 billion for child care. Bush would maintain funding as is. Cardin and the governors recommend increases to account for inflation and unmet demand for child care.

--Work, education and training:

State welfare programs push people to find jobs, with very few recipients offered education or training. That's partly because federal law requires that states have half their caseload engaged in a "work activity" for at least 30 hours a week.

The complex issues here include whether to allow states more flexibility to count education and training programs as a work activity, whether to increase the portion of recipients who must be at work, and whether to change how the work participation rates are calculated.

Governors and Cardin both want to give states more power to count people in education and training programs as "working."

The Bush plan offers new flexibility, but also severely increases the number of people who must participate in the program and puts new limits on activities that a state may count as work. For instance, states would have to put most recipients into private or public sector jobs for at least 24 hours a week.

The Bush plan "could actually reduce the states' discretion to determine what mix of training, work and other activities will best lead to long-term employment for each welfare recipient,'' Cardin said Tuesday.


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Ohio commission says denying rent to unmarried couples based on religious grounds not acceptable

A story published today by the Beacon Journal reports that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has found fault with an Akron, Ohio landlord who denied housing to an unmarried couple on religious grounds.

The civil rights agency said that Dave Grey should not have used his beliefs to deny housing to Danielle Levingston, her fiancée Todd Roberts, their child and three children of Levingston's.

Landlords in Ohio may deny housing to unmarried applicants on the grounds that a rift between them could be bad for business.

But it is illegal to deny housing because the landlord has different values than the applicants, said Vincent Curry, executive director of the Fair Housing Advocates Association of Akron, which handled Levingston's complaint.

"Religion should not even come into play," he said.

Curry said Grey told Levingston that she would not inherit the kingdom of God, that his treatment of her was based on love and the Scriptures, that God's word gave him wisdom, and that one of God's commandments was not to live in impurity.

The issue arose in October when Levingston sought to rent a home from Grey on Voris Avenue in Akron. She said the home was near her daughter's school, on a beautiful side street -- perfect for her family.

Connie Higgins, spokeswoman for the Civil Rights Commission, said the agency is trying to mediate a remedy between Grey and Levingston. Curry said his client is seeking for Grey to pay unspecified damages, be monitored and agree to cease the behavior.

Curry said complaints like Levingston's are rare. While single people often mistakenly complain that they're being treated unfairly when they can't rent together, he said he knew of only one other local incident in which religion was an issue -- and in that case, the complainant declined to press the issue because the landlord was elderly.

Levingston and her family since have found a home in Akron's Kenmore neighborhood. She and her fiancée have set a marriage month -- September. They're still working on setting an exact date, she added.


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Kansas lawmakers target common law marriages in state

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Kansas bill banning common law marriages among minors won first-round House approval Tuesday, while the State senate advanced a measure to abolish such arrangements altogether.

Both chambers gave their respective measures first-round approval on voice votes and planned final action Wednesday.

Legislators were inspired to attack common law marriages — which require no certificate — after hearing the story of 16 year old Sara Shelton. She testified she was raped and had two children by the same man by age 14.

That man, Jerry Paul Crooks Jr., is serving a 25-year prison sentence for rape. Crooks testified during his trial in Butler County that he and the girl had a common law marriage, an assertion jurors rejected.

Kansas courts, since 1913, have declared that the common law age of consent for marriage is 14 for boys and 12 for girls, and that they do not need the permission of their parents. Lawmakers hope that bills introduced in the legislature would stop common law marriages in the state.


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More unmarried men suffer loneliness and depression


A story released today by United Press International reports that according to Pennsylvania State researchers, elderly unmarried men who are childless suffer higher rates of loneliness and depression than their female counterparts.

"Although parental status was not statistically associated with psychological well-being, marriage appears to bring substantial psychological benefits, says Zhenmei Zhang, a doctoral student in sociology at Penn State."Marital status, rather than parental status, is a more salient factor influencing loneliness and depression in old age."

Compared to women, men have much smaller social support networks outside of the immediate family, a circumstance that may be worsened by childlessness combined with being unmarried, Zhang explains.

The researchers also discovered that the psychological well being of stepparents is comparable to that of biological parents suggesting that family ties are more important than biological ties.

Among the elderly, higher levels of education, better physical health and more economic resources help considerably to reduce the odds of loneliness and depression, Zhang says.

The findings of the Penn State research are reported in the Journal of Gerontology.



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Voting: Who’s making a difference?


The Census Bureau released a report today showing that nearly 37 million voters in the last presidential election were unmarried. Divorced, widowed, and never married citizens constituted more than 35% of the national vote.

Although men historically have voted at higher rates than women, women’s rates surpassed those of men in the entire 18 and older population for the first time in the Presidential election of 1984.

This trend coincides with a number of social changes for women over the past few decades. Educational attainment and the labor force participation rate, both strong correlates of voting, have risen significantly among women. Together these trends point to significant levels of political involvement of women, including voting behavior.

The same report also revealed that the voting rate among older age groups are much higher than younger age groups.

The peak age group for voting participation is 65 to 74 years, where 72 percent of citizens voted in the 2000 election. The 18 to 24 year old voting bloc had the lowest voting rate with only 36 percent exercising their voting rights.

Marital status is also associated with voting patterns. Married individuals (67 percent) are more likely to vote than widowed (59 percent), divorced (54 percent), separated (46 percent), and never married individuals (44 percent). Separated and never-married individuals are generally younger, which also influences their voting patterns.

To read the full report just click here or  to the site below:



Tuesday, February 26, 2002

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Being single doesn’t mean ordering take-out every night

A story published today by the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that since most guys don't put a high priority on learning to cook, the numbing realization that Mom's home cooking is now a pleasant memory can lead to a first-name relationship with the neighborhood pizza delivery person. But cooking doesn't have to be such a great mystery and can even be easy and fun, if you're willing to experiment.

"If you're single, get a friend to cook with you," suggested Carter Bagley, an Asheville bachelor who got interested in cooking as a teen. "It's more fun if you get a group of friends together and cook for them."

Bagley, whose friends consider him a serious cook, advises beginners to start by learning how to make something simple you like. "Tacos are really easy, or pasta," he said. "Making homemade pizza is another way to get your feet wet."

For Richie Whitson of Asheville, learning to cook beat the alternative of fast food and eating out every night.

"I'm really picky about what I eat, and sometimes when I eat out, I end up being disappointed with the meal," he said. "When I cook, I know what goes in it and if I don't like it, I know it was something I did."

Whitson, whose first foray into the culinary world was "a spaghetti dinner when I was 17 or 18" advises beginning cooks to dive right in. "Don't be afraid to just go crazy and experiment," he says. "If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world - it's just cooking!"

Finding recipes for easy things to cook takes a little time and imagination, but there are a lot of resources available. Asking family and friends for some of their favorites is a good way to begin, Whitson and Bagley both agreed. Other sources are the Web and cookbooks designed for beginners.

When asked about the most essential piece of equipment in their kitchens, Bagley and Whitson disagreed.

"A George Foreman grill," said Bagley. "My sister gave me one, and I thought it was a joke. It sat in the box for six months until I used it, and now I love it. It works on everything from grilled cheese to quail."

So what does Whitson consider the most essential piece of equipment in the kitchen? "A dishwasher - you know you're always going to need it," he quipped.


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AASP advocating equal rights for unmarried America

A story published today by the Ventura County Star reports that single people now have a voice and the power to change their status. Singles are not only more than 40 percent of the adult population; they're also more than 40 percent of the nation's workforce.

Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the advocacy group the American Association for Single People, wishes single people realized how much potential they have to change other things in their living situations.

He wants to turn growing numbers into political power.

Taxes, Social Security, inheritance taxes and insurance rates are among areas where singles suffer, he said.

Employee benefits, Coleman and others said, are skewed toward married people.

Single people often are the ones stuck with overtime and relocation -- the idea being that a married person has a life.

"If you are single, your time away from work is just as important; everyone has a life outside work," he said.

Others pointed to studies that show married men can make 30 and even 40 percent more than single guys with comparable jobs and education.

Married women also make more than single women, though by not as much, maybe 10 percent more.

Coleman doesn't believe such pay discrepancies are widespread, but he knows they exist.

"An employer who does that is making a mistake," he said. "It just causes resentment, and a resentful employee will not be as productive."

Singles also suffer in other ways.

Food prices often reward those who buy more, i.e. families.

Like hotel rooms, apartment rents for two who split the bill often are far less expensive than for the lone one whose total rent may be only $100 cheaper.

That's not discrimination, because it's based on square footage and includes privacy or what Coleman called "the right not to share your toys."

But, he added, it is a pocketbook impact and "part of the high cost of living single alone."

Like apartment rents, two-for-one restaurant coupons and airfares don't require being married, but many singles say their friends often are unavailable or too far away to take advantage of such offers.

Stan Charnofsky, a professor at California State University, Northridge and a member of AASP, said that with growing numbers of singles, such economic and social issues "are a hot topic right now."

"Singles don't get treated fairly," Charnofsky said. "You are not afforded the same kind of dignity as paired-off people are."

"It's time for unmarried America to wake up, pay attention and realize there are some injustices," Coleman said. "Politicians will not say the 'S' word. It's all family, family, family."

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Living single and living it well


A story published today by Ventura County Star reports that singles now comprise more than 40 percent of the population and many statistics on them are at record levels or trending upward, experts say.

Being single means being able to snore and go where you want -- and the comfort that World War III won't erupt if you skip doing the dishes that night. But it also can mean loneliness, no one to share great moments with, feeling left out -- and being stuck in the corner table at the restaurant.

Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has done several studies on singles and is one herself. She said while some singles like peace and quiet and time to think, many feel apprehensive about going to the movies or other public places by themselves for fear of being stared at or viewed as being different.

More than 82 million unmarried adults age 18 and older now live in the United States. Single people are about 42 percent of the adult population, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Ventura County, it's even higher, at more than 46 percent.

In 1950, more than three of every four households nationally, or 78 percent, were headed by a married person, and only about one in five by single people; 2001 figures show the gap has narrowed to just a 53-47 split slightly in favor of married people, said Jason Fields, a family demographer in the Census Bureau's Washington office.

Single people living alone now make up one of every four households in the nation, at or near an all-time high and trailing only households headed by married people without children; in Ventura County, it's slightly lower, around 19 percent, or about one in five.

"Our data doesn't really lend itself to answering the question why, which is what everyone wants to know," Fields noted.

It feeds on itself. Singleness breeds singleness. Divorce encourages divorce, the attitude being that people believe they can find someone else, said Stan Charnofsky, a professor of educational psychology and counseling at California State University, Northridge.

All those factors are creating more singles. And many of them feel just fine, said Charnofsky, who is also single. He's been divorced for about 20 years and has finished an unpublished book titled "Surfing the Single Life."

The entertainment media throw up movies and TV shows where many of the characters look like Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, leading to artificial expectations, Charnofsky noted.

"We all think the beautiful one, the perfect one, is always right around the corner," he said.

Other local singles say they are not too worried about their marital status. A nationwide Gallup poll last year yielded similar results. That survey of people in their 20s found that 87 percent believe they will find their soul mate -- even if they worry whether that relationship will last. More than half said they saw few happy marriages.

Census figures show that more than 58 percent of Simi's population is married; Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Camarillo all were at least 60 percent. Oxnard has the highest ratio of singles in the county, 55 percent, followed by Port Hueneme at 54 percent; things are about dead even in Santa Paula, Ventura, Ojai and Fillmore.

The west county's population is older and more settled -- meaning people have had more time to become widowed, divorced or otherwise single -- while the east county has more young families, said Steve Wood, a senior county planner in charge of demographics.

While it's difficult to predict the future, "you probably will start to see more single-person households," Fields said. And, he added, it might not be young, single people, but perhaps more older singles heading households.


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Unmarried couples need to worry about finances too

A story released by TheStreet.com reports that while it may sound romantic to move in with your partner, be aware that it can create some complicated financial situations.

People in long-term relationships often pick up and share pricey assets like houses, cars and retirement plans along the way. Yet while the law says plenty about the financial affairs of married couples, it's totally quiet on those who haven't had the blessing of the church or the seal through civil marriage. So if you're not married and the relationship comes to an end, or worse, your partner unexpectedly dies, you could very well end up with nothing -- unless you take care of matters now.

"If you're married, you get everything unless you opt out. If you're unmarried, you get nothing unless you opt in," says Frederick Hertz, an Oakland, Calif.-based attorney and author of a legal guide on living together.

And certainly, more people than ever are finding themselves in such a tough spot. Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of unmarried adults living together in opposite-sex couples nearly doubled, from 6.5% to 12.6% of the population, estimates Philip Cohen, a demographer and sociologist at the University of California (Irvine). That percentage would be even higher if you count same-sex couples (where reliable stats are harder to come by).

Nevertheless, in most cases, the burden is still on couples to look out for each other. Below, we explain a few of the best ways to protect you and your partner financially.

A house is the most valuable financial asset owned by many Americans, making up a vital piece of their financial security. So you and your partner should think about how you want to share ownership of your place.

There are two common options for home ownership: tenancy in common and joint tenancy with the right of survivor. A tenancy in common affords each partner more control over his share of the property. If one member dies, his share in the house goes to whomever he has designated in his will. That may or may not be the surviving partner.

Titling a house in joint tenancy is a more drastic step. Under this arrangement, if one person on the title dies, the entire property passes to the survivor.

If you want your partner to inherit the house when you die, consider simply leaving it to him in your will.

For that matter, even if your house is titled as a joint tenancy, it's not a bad idea to confirm in your will that you want your partner to inherit it. That's especially important for same-sex couples in case the matter ends up in court, says Harold Lustig, a San Francisco-based adviser who's written a book on financial planning for same-sex couples. "If your will is out of date or there's an unhappy family member and a homophobic judge, [your partner could lose] access to property even though the title says it goes to them. But if a will confirms it and says the same thing, it's very difficult to challenge."

Making a will is especially important for domestic partners. With married couples, of course, it's assumed that the surviving spouse is first in line to inherit property. But that's not the case for unmarrieds. If you were to die while cohabiting with your partner, the law would assume that your nearest kin would inherit your estate -- not the soul mate you may have been living with for decades.

Also, be sure to review your will every three or four years, or if you move to another state, change jobs, or there's a birth or death in your family.

If you have substantial property, you may want to consider a step beyond writing a will. When you leave assets through a will, your heirs must go through the hassle of probate, a time-consuming legal process. Probate fees may amount to 5% or more of your estate, depending on the state you live in and the property you own, reducing the size of the estate your heirs will receive.

To avoid probate, you may want to consult a lawyer to set up what's known as a revocable living trust. Like a will, a revocable living trust lets you divvy up your assets, and you're allowed to change the beneficiaries in the trust throughout your life. Basically, a trust will give you the same end results as a will, but it's more expensive to set up.

But don't think making a will or a living trust will take care of everything. It's likely you also have substantial assets in life insurance and pension assets.

Be sure the beneficiary designations on those policies are up to date, to avoid trouble after your death. If you want your partner to receive the benefits, name him specifically. Otherwise, your next of kin will inherit the assets. That's true even if you've left all your property to your partner in the will.

Above all, if you live with someone, don't let yourself be lulled into doing nothing. After all, while marriage forces a couple to consider their new financial obligations, moving in together may happen more gradually, without a big ceremony -- so it can be easier to overlook how your finances have changed. But a little honest discussion and planning could save both you and your partner plenty of money and heartbreak later.


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The changing face of the suburbs

A story released by the Associated Press reports that suburban life the American neighborhood is no longer dominated by the married-with-children crowd. Nonfamily households -- homes headed by young, single professionals or elderly widows, for instance -- now outnumber married couples with kids in the suburbs of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.

The days of ``Ozzie and Harriet''-type families ruling the 'burbs are gone, said demographer William Frey. Just Mom, Dad and the kids lived under the same roof on the popular 1950s sitcom.

"This is a wave of the future," said demographer William Frey. "Suburbs are becoming much more diverse in terms of lifestyle."

The transition poses challenges for officials in many fast-growing counties struggling to balance the needs of their oldest residents against those of their newest.

"It's a tremendous drain on the available housing, because we have different kinds of demands," said Jacqueline Byers, research director for the National Association of Counties.

Overall, the 2000 census showed suburbs continuing to attract all types of families, especially in the older industrial urban centers of the Northeast and Midwest.

In the nation's 102 largest metropolitan areas, "nonfamilies" comprised 29 percent of households in 2000, up from 27 percent in 1990.

Some of the demographic change came about because of divorce, a rise in single-parent homes or the death of a spouse, said Frey, an author of a Brookings Institution report that analyzed the metropolitan area data. Brookings is a Washington-based think tank.

Also, children of the giant baby boom generation have aged and most have left home, leaving "empty-nest" parents.

At the same time, young professionals have moved to escape high city rents or stay closer to jobs in sprawling suburban office parks.

Much of the change occurred over the last 15 years, with jobs at the heart of the transition, Byers said. In the Northeast and Midwest, single people and new families are not moving into older suburbs that had been quickly populated by baby boom families in the 1950s.


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Single and burdened

A story released today by All Africa Global Media reports that society has imagine single women in their 30s are irresponsible, selfish or even lesbians

"It was quite annoying. I had never imagined that there are people who are so perverted that they do not imagine a woman in her late 20s cannot do without sex," said 27-year-old Jessica, the frustration written all over her face.

Jessica left university in 1997 after a failed relationship and vowed never to walk into another relationship until she was convinced that she was ready for one.

"There are people who interact with you and the best you can relate with them is as friends and nothing more. For others, one realizes that they are actually out to use you."

A number of single women face the same challenge. Some women have had to own up their friends because of the suspicions.

"It is not only women who face such challenges," says Ann Marie. "Men too have problems. I have a 40-year-old male friend, whose sisters have tried to match make but in vain.

He seems not to be interested in relationships but friends cannot imagine how on earth he survives without a woman in his life. They always ask what is wrong with him," Ann Marie says.

Single women feel more harassed than single men. Married women look at single women, single mothers, divorced or widowed with suspicion. They always imagine they want to poach on their men. Men who see them socializing with other men, always imagine they are having a sexual relationship with them.

Society has groomed people to treat platonic relationship between opposites sexes with suspicion.

Lydia Tusiime, a sociologist, says in society there are stages. These include birth, adolescence, marriage, reproductive health and childbirth and then death.

"If you are not fulfilling all the stages or one of the stages, people view you suspiciously. Society does not accept you," she says.

"For women, especially if they are in their 30s and are not married, it is like they are irresponsible, selfish and may be they have a sexual problem. People will imagine that you are sexually deviant-may be you are a lesbian or perhaps you were bewitched.

In your 20s people treat you differently, but when you hit your 30s, they will always treat you suspiciously," observes Tusiime.


Monday, February 25, 2002

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Singles volunteering as godparents for Singapore’s needy kids


A story published today by the Strait Times reports that since his dad died last year, seven-year-old Tan Poh Chew has been taken care of by his grandparents while his mother goes to work at a fast-food restaurant.

Although he can play with his six-month-old brother Marcus, he still misses his father.

But now, he has found a new 'godfather' in Singapore businessman Ernest Koh.

As part of a Southeast Community Development Council (CDC) and Singles Connect program, Ernest, 50, who is single, has been acting as a mentor to Poh Chew for the past two months.

Being part of this 'mentor-a-child' program means Ernest takes him out for meals, buys him toys, helps him with his studies and gives him moral support when he feels down.

 Ernest Koh says he is happy to spend time with the boy. "I'm too old to be a parent myself, so this program helps me show warmth and care to other children." he added.

Singles Connect is a support group for singles which was set up last year to provide volunteer opportunities for single adults to get involved in the community.

So far, 16 singles have signed up as mentors to help needy children.

The singles are screened and monitored by the Southeast CDC, which then matches them with children at the Marine Parade student care center and the Chen Su Lan Children's Home in Singapore. Both parties are consulted on their preferences before a match is made.

The founder of Singles Connect and Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Miss Irene Ng said: "Well-adjusted singles with a heart for the community can play a valuable role as adult mentors."

"These volunteers are not meant to replace the children's mothers or fathers; they are mentors trying to make Singapore a better place for these children."

Sunday, February 24, 2002

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Connecticut singles group offers friends, fun and frivolity

A story published today by the Middletown Press reports that when Marcia Klos founded Social Connections, a network for single active adults, her main goal was to provide fun and friendship to single people in the community.

"This is not a dating service," said Gail Fuller, president of the club which celebrated its sixth year of serving area singles on Feb 16.

 "It's an opportunity to get out and meet terrific friends and be with people your own age and not be sitting home feeling sorry for yourself," said Marcia Klos, who is also the treasurer of the group.

"Some hook up. Not everyone does. It gets you out of the house to have some fun," Klos said.

Klos said she's been to several weddings, but club members are "not waiting for a white horse to ride up" by any means. Some dating goes on and people circulate in and out of the group as they become involved, but a lot "make terrific friends, both male and female."

"It's a nice way to connect with people. A lot of singles stay home alone and watch TV on Fridays and Saturdays," when they could be enjoying house parties, barbecues, lobster bakes, hay rides, cruises, hikes and happy hours, Fuller said.

The club began with a handful of unmarried friends who believed that with a little structure and imagination, the single life could be a fulfilling one. In just a few years, Social Connections has attracted 250 regular members from 70 Connecticut towns and even a few from Massachusetts.

Most members are from central Connecticut, with Bristol, Berlin, New Britain, Waterbury and Avon area towns very well-represented.

The group has also gained nonprofit status, and Fuller said it has definitely arrived as an established, legitimate social setting for active adults. It is open to all ages, but members' ages fall primarily between 35 and into the 50s. Dues are $40 a year, which includes a discount on events plus the newsletter, but those just interested in the newsletter can subscribe for $15 annually.

"When many people become single either through divorce or widowhood, they find it difficult to go out into the single world. We provide a safe, comfortable environment for them to get out of their homes and have an enjoyable time with other singles," Fuller said.

Saturday, February 23, 2002

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Living together before marriage is not that uncommon in Oklahoma


A story published today by the Oklahoman reports that according to the 2000 Census, the number of Oklahoma couples living together outside marriage nearly doubled in 10 years, from 27,001 in 1990 to 53,307 in 2000.

"It is an issue that we're concerned about," said Howard Hendrick, state Department of Human Services director and Gov. Frank Keating's Cabinet secretary for health and human services.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma's number of single-mother households with children under 18 climbed almost 22 percent between 1990 and 2000, hitting 94,403, the census found. One in three Oklahoma babies is born to an unmarried woman, according to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore.

Nationally, married couples with children under 18, the classic nuclear family, made up 23.5 percent of all households in the 2000 census, compared to 45 percent in 1960.

Still, nine out of 10 Americans will marry sometime in their lifetime, according to a new Census Bureau report.

That's down from roughly 19 out of 20 a half-century ago.

According to the census report, "Number, Timing and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 1996," nearly everyone marries; nearly half of recent first marriages may end in divorce; and most people remarry after divorcing from a first marriage.

The census study also found a correlation between educational level and marriage. College graduates are more likely to marry and less likely to separate, the study reported.

Keating launched the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative three years ago with a goal of reducing the state's No. 2-in-the- nation divorce rate by one-third by 2010.

The governor set aside $10 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, welfare money, for programs aimed at improving Oklahomans' marriage skills.

"We're helping couples learn, and learn to practice, conflict- resolution techniques, communications skills, agreement on child-rearing practices, and agreement on money matters," Hendrick said.

To hear Hendrick tell it, a marriage certificate is more than a piece of paper, it's a ticket.

A ticket, he says, to a longer, healthier life; less poverty and more economic prosperity; and better adjusted, more academically successful children.

"Does that mean we're going to start compelling people to get married?" Hendrick said. "No. But I think it's important for us to communicate what the results of studies indicate."

A team of scholars for the Center for the American Experiment, the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education and the Institute for American Values released a report earlier this month titled "Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Scientists."

Among the report's conclusions:

Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or couples who live together.

Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers.

Parental divorce, or failure to marry, appears to increase children's risk of school failure, while divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.

Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in other family forms.

Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.

Friday, February 22, 2002

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State governors pushing for more welfare funds


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that state governors are asking Congress for more federal money and more power to offer education and training to welfare recipients.

State governors, key players in remaking welfare programs coast to coast, also want flexibility to relax the five-year limit on benefits for those working. In addition, they want to bring legal immigrants back into aid programs.

The recommendations, to be completed when governors gather this weekend in Washington, are similar to many ideas Democrats and liberals promote, although most governors are Republicans who supported the changes in the face of liberal opposition five years ago.

"Governors are proud of their success in welfare reform," says a draft of the National Governors' Association welfare policy to be adopted at the winter meetings. "Governors recognize, however, that the job of helping families obtain long-term self-sufficiency is far from over, and that many challenges remain."

None of the major players, including the governors, are suggesting fundamental changes to federal welfare policy. It was remade in 1996 to push work, limit the number of years on assistance and give states vast new powers to shape their programs. At issue is how the program might be altered on the margins, and how much money Congress will spend.

Liberals are also pushing for greater emphasis on education and training to help people who leave welfare find better-paying jobs. Conservatives want the system to do more to promote marriage, saying two-parent families are better for children and the ticket to escaping poverty.

"Governors recognize that achieving self-sufficiency and sustained independence from welfare requires more than just an entry-level job," says the policy draft, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. "States are beginning to address the challenges of promoting job retention, job advancement and increased earnings."

Governors are also asking for a variety of other changes in rules to give states more flexibility on details of the program. They want money that flows to states through bonus programs to continue.

For its part, the Bush administration is promoting ideas that both conservatives and liberals support.

The president's budget asks for $100 million for experiments in promoting marriage. Administration officials have also suggested that they will back more education and training.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is expected to provide more details of the administration's plan when he meets with governors Tuesday.

Governors have little to say about marriage in their six-page policy document, except to say that Congress should not require that states spend their money on this particular program. Rather, governors mention the importance of involving two parents in children's' lives and reducing teen pregnancy.


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Canadian doctor refuses to prescribe contraceptive pills to singles

A story released today by the National Post reports that a doctor from Ontario, Canada may lose his medical license for refusing to prescribe birth control pills to single women.

Dr. Stephen Dawson, a family physician at a walk-in medical clinic in Barrie, is facing a professional misconduct charge because four female patients lodged formal complaints with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario last summer.

The College's disciplinary committee alleges Dr. Dawson compromised his patients' mental, moral and physical health by failing to ensure their needs were met after refusing their requests for contraception.

Dr. Dawson says he was advised to refer the patients to another physician who would write the prescriptions, but says doing that would have been hypocritical. The patients were free to use condoms or find other doctors independently, he added.

He also refuses to provide single men with Viagra prescriptions, offer unmarried women the morning-after pill or arrange abortions.

"He's entitled to his beliefs and he is certainly entitled to express his beliefs," said Laura Shanner, who researches reproductive ethics at the University of Alberta's John Dossetor Health Ethics Center.

"What he is not entitled to do is to deny the standard of care to his patients. He absolutely must refer patients to a practitioner who is able to deal with sexuality and reproductive issues in a non-judgmental and helpful way."

Louise Hanvey, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, said patients already face too many obstacles to obtaining contraception in Canada.

"We see this as a human rights issue," she said. "Women and men are entitled to their reproductive rights."

Dr. Dawson's supporters, on the other hand, say all physicians should aspire to his example.

"He's actually being a good physician by taking care of both the spiritual as well as the medical and physical needs of his patients," said John Hof, president of the B.C. branch of Campaign Life Coalition. "If he can't put his opinion into it, then it takes away the motive for helping people."

Dr. Dawson instigated his policy on Feb. 8, 2000, after reading a Bible verse that convinced him providing birth control prescriptions was immoral. He informed his patients of his decision during their subsequent visits and distributed a letter outlining his position.

He said the college's allegations amount to religious persecution.

"We live, supposedly, in a free country," he said. "In this country, we are allowed to have fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion and expression of our views."

Officials at the Ontario Ministry of Health declined to comment on Dr. Dawson's case because it is before the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The College may not have a strong case against Dr. Dawson because in other instances in the province, it has been left to the individual discretion of physicians as to whether they perform abortions or other procedures that may be against their religious beliefs.

Kathryn Clarke, a spokeswoman for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, reviewed its discipline reports for the past decade and could not find any comparable allegations.

Three doctors and two members of the public sit on the discipline committee. In professional misconduct cases, they can reprimand the doctor, suspend his license or revoke it altogether. The hearing is scheduled for April.



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