Jennifer Ludden

Jennifer Ludden is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. She covers a range of stories on family life and social issues.

In recent years, Ludden has reported on the changing economics of marriage, the changing face of retirement as the baby boomers enter old age, and the ethical challenges of modern reproductive technology.

Ludden helped cover national security after the 9/11 attacks, then reported on the Bush administration's crackdown on illegal immigrants as well as Congressional efforts to pass a sweeping legalization. She traveled to the Philippines for a story on how an overburdened immigration bureaucracy keeps families separated for years, and to El Salvador to profile migrants who had been deported or turned back at the border.

Prior to moving into her current assignment in 2002, Ludden spent six years as a foreign reporter for NPR covering the Middle East, Europe, and West and Central Africa. She followed the collapse of the decade-long Oslo peace process, shared in two awards (Overseas Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists) for NPR's coverage of the Kosovo war in 1999, and won the Robert F. Kennedy award for her coverage of the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When not navigating war zones, Ludden reported on cultural trends, including the dying tradition of storytellers in Syria, the emergence of Persian pop music in Iran, and the rise of a new form of urban polygamy in Africa.

Before joining NPR in 1995, Ludden reported in Canada, and at public radio stations in Boston and Maine.

Ludden graduated from Syracuse University in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in English and Television, Radio and Film Production.

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4:59pm

Sun April 13, 2014
Your Money

Outdated Tax Code Gives Some Working Spouses A Bad Deal

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 10:07 am

The U.S. tax code, which dates back to the days of Ozzie and Harriet, works against dual-income spouses. In some cases, it's cheaper for one spouse to stay home.
Sherry Yates iStockphoto.com

Women today are nearly half the workforce, and two-income couples are the norm. But the U.S. tax code? It's straight out of Ozzie and Harriet.

When it comes to paying taxes, economists say, a lot of secondary wage-earners are getting a raw deal. It's called the marriage penalty.

"The system was never designed to penalize working spouses," says Melissa Kearney, director of the Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institution. "It was just designed in a different era."

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3:28am

Mon March 31, 2014
The Changing Lives Of Women

When Planning For The Future, Women Have Been Hands Off

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 12:46 pm

In Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays a wealthy New York socialite who has it all, loses it all and ends up delusional on a park bench.
Perdido Productions

It's a truism in the financial industry that women need to get more out of their money than men since they live longer and make less, especially if they take time out to care for children or aging parents. But it's also a given that they lack confidence when it comes to investing, something that's clear on a recent evening at the Women's Center in Vienna, Va.

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4:47pm

Thu March 20, 2014
Around the Nation

Rural Appalachia Helps Some Women Save For Retirement

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 5:22 pm

Anita Wallace runs a child care service in rural Athens County, Ohio. She hadn't saved much for retirement before the Appalachian Savings Project offered to match half of her savings up to $600.
Jennifer Ludden NPR

Anita Wallace has run a day care in her home in rural Athens County, Ohio, for eight years. The schedule is more family-friendly than when she logged 60 hours a week as a manager at Wal-Mart, and the pay is about $27,000 a year — not bad for the area.

Wallace adores the children, getting down on the floor to let toddlers snuggle on her shoulder. But Wallace, 40, and her husband, 47, also have three of their own kids to raise.

"They're very expensive!" she says, laughing, as her own children — two still live at home — inform her of the new track uniforms they need.

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5:46pm

Thu February 27, 2014
Around the Nation

Telework: Not Just For Moms And Millennials

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 12:37 pm

New research finds that 3 out of 4 remote workers are men.
iStockphoto

Many people may think of a "remote worker" as a harried mom in her bathrobe or a 20-something at a coffee shop. But that image doesn't actually reflect who is working outside the office, according to a new study.

"A remote worker, someone who does most of their work outside of their employer's location, is not a woman, is not a parent and is not a Gen-Y millennial," says Cali Williams Yost, a workplace flexibility strategist and CEO of the Flex+Strategy Group.

A Remote-Working Gender Gap

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3:35am

Wed February 26, 2014
Around the Nation

Push To Change Custody Laws: What's Best For Kids?

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:43 am

Children do better — in school and emotionally — when they have enough time with both parents, according to a fathers' rights group pushing for joint-custody laws.
iStockphoto

Fathers today spend more time than ever with their kids, experiencing just as much stress as women in balancing work and family, if not more. But when couples divorce and a custody dispute hits the courts, too many judges award custody to Mom, according to fathers' rights groups.

Ned Holstein, head of the National Parents Organization, formerly called Fathers and Families, says research shows that children do better academically and emotionally when they see a lot of each parent.

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6:41pm

Tue February 11, 2014
Around the Nation

Going To College May Cost You, But So Will Skipping It

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 8:00 pm

A new study shows that the income gap between young adults who go to college and those who don't only continues to grow.
iStockphoto

In America, total student loan debt tops $1 trillion and a four-year college degree can cost as much as a house — leaving many families wondering if college is really worth the cost.

Yes, a new study of young people finds. The study, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, looks at income and unemployment among young adults. Paul Taylor, executive vice president of special projects at Pew, says it's pretty much case closed when it comes to the benefits of going to college.

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3:04am

Wed January 1, 2014
The Salt

Malawian Farmers Say Adapt To Climate Change Or Die

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Villages in the Lower Shire valley of Malawi, like this one named Jasi, rely heavily on subsistence farming and steady rainfall, and are struggling to produce steady harvests.
Jennifer Ludden/NPR

Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.

In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.

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4:36pm

Thu December 26, 2013
News

With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 7:13 pm

The U.S. Capitol dome provides a view down the National Mall, an area vulnerable to flooding.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

The nation's capital is not exactly a beach town. But the cherry-tree-lined Tidal Basin, fed by the Potomac River, laps at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And, especially since Superstorm Sandy, officials in Washington have a clear idea of what would happen in a worst-case storm scenario.

"The water would go across the World War II memorial, come up 17th Street," says Tony Vidal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "And there are actually three spots where the water would come up where we don't have ... a closure structure right now."

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5:24am

Sun December 1, 2013
Parallels

Five Things You May Not Know About Child Marriage

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 10:40 am

Arinafe Makwiti, 13, says her parents forced her to drop out of school and get married to an older man last year to help with the family finances. Makwiti has divorced her husband, but now has a 9-month-old daughter.
Jennifer Ludden NPR

NPR's Jennifer Ludden recently traveled to the African nation of Malawi, one of many countries in the developing world where child marriage remains prevalent. She found girls like Christina Asima, who was married at 12 and became a mother at 13. She is now divorced and caring for her infant son on her own. You can read Jennifer's full report here. Below are a few more things she learned while reporting on child marriage.

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10:04am

Mon November 25, 2013
Parallels

Can Child Marriages Be Stopped?

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 6:05 pm

Christina Asima says she had no choice but to marry last year at age 12 to help care for younger siblings after her mother abandoned the family. But she says her husband was abusive, so she left him, and now must look after her 8-month-old son, Praise, alone.
Jennifer Ludden NPR

Christina Asima seems tired for a 13-year-old. I meet the shy-mannered girl in the remote farming village of Chitera, in the southern African nation of Malawi. She wears a bright pink zip-up shirt and a blue print cloth wrapped up to her chest. Snuggled in that, hugging her side, is a chubby-cheeked baby boy.

My gut assumption is that the infant must be Christina's little brother. I know 8-month-old Praise is actually her son. Still, it's startling when, as we speak, she shifts him around front to nurse.

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5:17pm

Tue October 29, 2013
Law

Illinois Files Suit Against Online Adoption Agency

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 7:57 pm

A Web-based adoption can hold great appeal for all sides.
iStockphoto

The Adoption Network Law Center is based in California, but when someone in Illinois searches "adoption" on the Web, up it pops, right near the top.

"They're very specific in directing their advertising and marketing to people in Illinois," says Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, even though they're not licensed in the state. Illinois prohibits for-profit adoption agencies.

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3:32am

Thu August 29, 2013
The Salt

For Restaurant Workers, A Struggle To Put Food On The Table

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 11:27 am

Losia Nyankale helps daughter Jonessa and son Juliean learn the alphabet. Nyankale, who works in a restaurant in Washington, D.C., says she needs food stamps and child-care subsidies to make ends meet.
Jennifer Ludden NPR

Losia Nyankale, 29, didn't mean to make a career in the restaurant business. But after Nyankale was in college for two years, her mom lost her job as a schoolteacher and could no longer pay tuition. Then, Nyankale's temp jobs in bookkeeping dried up in the recession. So she went back to her standby — restaurant work.

"I did some kitchen work. The pantries or the salad station," she says. "I've also managed, supervised, wash[ed] dishes."

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5:27pm

Wed August 14, 2013
Law

Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:40 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for using campaign funds to buy luxury goods. His wife also received a year in prison for filing false tax returns. Prosecutors called their joint crimes one of the worst abuses of campaign finance laws in recent memory. NPR's Jennifer Ludden was at the courthouse here in Washington, D.C.

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4:12pm

Thu July 18, 2013
Energy

Carbon Tax Gaining Popularity, But Not With Lawmakers

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 6:31 pm

The idea of taxing carbon emissions to curb climate change has been gaining surprisingly diverse and bipartisan support over the past year. Everywhere, that is, except Congress.

6:13pm

Mon July 15, 2013
Race

Zimmerman Verdict Feels Personal For Some In Service Sorority

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 7:54 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder greets Alexis Margaret Herman, member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, before speaking at the organization's convention.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Attorney General Eric Holder looked out over a sea of women in red on Monday and invoked his wife, a member of the influential African-American sorority Delta Sigma Theta. Holder was addressing the sorority's national convention in its centennial year.

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6:00pm

Tue July 9, 2013
Law

Gays And Lesbians Turn Fight To Workplace Discrimination Ban

Esteban Roncancio and other protesters call for executive action on workplace discrimination for LGBT Americans in Miami.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

With new momentum for same-sex marriage from the Supreme Court, gays and lesbians are hoping for progress in another sphere: the workplace. In more than half the country, it's still legal to fire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On Wednesday, Senate lawmakers will once again debate a bill that would change that.

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4:59pm

Mon June 24, 2013
Environment

Congress Not Likely To Pass Sweeping Climate Legislation

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 6:10 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now to an issue that lawmakers are not spending a lot of time debating: climate change. Tomorrow, President Obama will lay out a strategy to address the problem, using executive powers. It's an admission that's sweeping climate legislation stands little chance of passing Congress as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Aides say Mr. Obama's plan includes limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The reaction from House Speaker John Boehner was blunt.

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2:26pm

Tue June 11, 2013
Law

Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 8:20 pm

At a time when most pregnant women work, there are new efforts to keep companies from unfairly targeting employees because of a pregnancy. The allegations of pregnancy discrimination persist and have even risen in recent years despite a decades-old law against it, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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2:57pm

Thu May 30, 2013
Shots - Health News

Joblessness Shortens Life Expectancy For White Women

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 4:39 pm

Unemployment can be a health hazard.
unknown iStockphoto.com

At a time when many people live longer, it's been a mystery why white women without a high school diploma have been dying increasingly earlier those with more education.

A study in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior tries to understand this growing mortality gap, and finds two key factors: smoking — already well known as detrimental to life expectancy — and, more surprising, unemployment.

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3:46am

Tue May 28, 2013
Law

Alimony Till Death Do Us Part? Nay, Say Some Ex-Spouses

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 8:30 am

Alimony dates back centuries. The original idea was that once married, a man is responsible for a woman till death. But that notion has shifted in recent decades, as more women have jobs and their own money. Now, a number of states are considering laws to end lifetime alimony.

During his two-decade marriage, Tom Leustek's wife earned a Ph.D. and landed a job that paid as much as his. He's a college professor in New Jersey.

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5:32am

Wed May 15, 2013
The Changing Lives Of Women

Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinner Moms And Making It All Work

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 9:21 pm

Dawn Heisey-Grove hands off Zane to Jonathan after a midday feeding. The couple were both working full time when Jonathan lost his job as a graphic designer two years ago.
Kainaz Amaria/NPR

The next time you see a father out shopping with his kids, you might need to check your assumptions.

"I'll get the, 'Oh, look, it's a dad! That's so sweet!' "says Jonathan Heisey-Grove, a stay-at-home father of two young boys in Alexandria, Va., who is pretty sure the other person assumes he's just giving Mom a break for the day. In fact, he's part of a growing number of fathers who are minding the kids full time while their wives support the family and who say societal expectations are not keeping up with their reality.

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5:34am

Sun May 12, 2013
Around the Nation

Bombing Suspect's Lawyer A Quiet Defender Of The Notorious

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 7:11 pm

Defense Attorney Judy Clarke has defended Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Gregory Bull AP

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner all have one thing in common: defense attorney Judy Clarke. With her help, all three avoided the death penalty.

Clarke routinely faces an enraged public, top-notch prosecutors and difficult, often disturbed clients. Now, Clarke is soon to face those things again with another high-profile client, alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

With such notorious clients, you might assume Clarke is tough, aggressive and happy in the spotlight.

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4:58pm

Tue May 7, 2013
Environment

Filling In The Gap On Climate Education In Classrooms

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:50 pm

Cy Maramangalam gives a presentation about climate change for the Alliance for Climate Education.
Courtesy of Alliance for Climate Education

The auditorium at James Blake High School in Silver Spring, Md., is packed when Cy Maramangalam strolls onstage, sporting jeans and a shaved head.

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4:49pm

Mon April 22, 2013
The Changing Lives Of Women

Moving Out And Buying In: Single Ladies Emerge As Homeowners

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:38 am

First-time homeowner Amanda Cowley in her new home in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. After married couples, single women are the largest demographic group of homebuyers.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

It's hard to remember that just a few decades ago it was difficult, if not impossible, for a woman alone to take out a mortgage. Federal legislation changed that.

And yet, it's still surprising to learn how dominant single women have become in the housing market today: Their share is second only to married couples, and twice that of single men.

Read more

3:31am

Wed March 27, 2013
Education

A Hot Topic: Climate Change Coming To Classrooms

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 1:29 pm

For the first time, new nationwide science standards recommend teaching K-12 students about climate change.
iStockphoto.com

By the time today's K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping. Now, for the first time, new nationwide science standards due out soon will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about the climatic shift taking place.

Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education says the lessons will fill a big gap.

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4:53am

Fri March 22, 2013
Around the Nation

Kids' Voices Key On Both Sides Of Gay-Marriage Debate

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 3:21 pm

The Rev. Gene Robinson, along with his daughter Ella and partner Mark Andrew, attend a news conference after Robinson was confirmed as bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis in 2003. Robinson was the church's first openly gay bishop, and his daughter is an advocate for gay marriage.
Eric Miller Getty Images

12:27pm

Thu March 14, 2013
The Two-Way

Modern Parenthood: More Equal, More Stressed

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 1:50 pm

Maybe in the 1940s, they just let them cry.
Fox Photos Getty Images

If you've ever had a spousal spat over who logs more time on housework, child care, or at the office, you might want to see how you stack up against other couples.

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2:59am

Fri March 1, 2013
Business

Stay-At-Home Workers Defend Choice After Yahoo Ban

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 1:51 pm

Yahoo's sweeping edict against telecommuting has been felt as a personal attack by some of the two-thirds of Americans who regularly work from home.

Lawyer Shannan Higgins of Washington, D.C., finds one line of the company memo outlining the policy change particularly offensive: "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."

For nearly a decade, Higgins has worked one day a week from the basement office in her rowhouse, where she takes pride in her work and is obsessed with efficiency.

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3:14am

Tue February 19, 2013
Environment

Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 5:31 pm

Jim Gandy, chief meteorologist for WLTX, in Columbia, S.C.
Brian Dressler Courtesy of WLTX

When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education.

The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don't know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing.

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3:24am

Tue February 5, 2013
Health

FMLA Not Really Working For Many Employees

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 1:47 pm

Jeannine Sato holds her 2-year-old son, Keni; 5-year-old Hana is held by her father, Mas Sato. Jeannine decided to leave her job when her employers said she could take six weeks off after giving birth to her first child or risk losing her job.
Courtesy of Jeannine Sato

Twenty years after President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers' rights groups say many employees still must choose between their family or their job.

They're marking the anniversary with calls to expand the law, and for Congress to pass a new one that would provide paid leave.

What Falls Under The FMLA?

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