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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Your Money
2:59 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

Outdated Tax Code Gives Some Working Spouses A Bad Deal

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

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 8:07 am

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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Business
4:08 am
Tue April 1, 2014

It's Illegal But People Get Fired For Talking About Their Pay

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 6:23 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

The U.S. Senate today will debate why women still earn roughly 80 cents to a man's dollar. Equal pay is a goal of the Paycheck Fairness Act. As NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, one part of the bill would ban workplace policies that keep everyone's pay secret.

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The Changing Lives Of Women
1:28 am
Mon March 31, 2014

When Planning For The Future, Women Have Been Hands Off

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

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:46 am

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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Around the Nation
2:26 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Rural Appalachia Helps Some Women Save For Retirement

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

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 3:22 pm

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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Education
2:05 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Efforts To Close The Achievement Gap In Kids Start At Home

Stephanie Taveras (left) visits Julia Alfaro and her 3-year-old daughter, Ayleen, to read and discuss her vocabulary progress.
Jennifer Ludden NPR

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 8:34 am

When Andrea Riquetti taught kindergarten in Providence, R.I., the disparity between more affluent students and those from poor families was painfully clear.

"We would read The Very Hungry Caterpillar," she says, "and I would ask them, 'What is this fruit?' And they would call all the fruits just 'fruits,' because they didn't have the specific name."

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Around the Nation
3:25 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Telework: Not Just For Moms And Millennials

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

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 10:37 am

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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Around the Nation
1:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 9:43 am

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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Around the Nation
3:56 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 6:00 pm

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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Business
3:17 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Paid Leave Laws Catch On Across the Nation

Activists hold signs during a rally for paid sick leave at New York's City Hall last year.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 10:55 am

This month, Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to offer workers paid family leave to care for a loved one. And on Tuesday, Newark, N.J., became the latest in a small wave of cities to mandate paid sick leave.

The policies cover both public and private sector workers, and a dozen more areas are considering some variation of them.

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The Salt
1:04 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Malawian Farmers Say Adapt To Climate Change Or Die

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

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 9:42 am

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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News
2:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 5:13 pm

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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Parallels
3:24 am
Sun December 1, 2013

Five Things You May Not Know About Child Marriage

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

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 8:40 am

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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Parallels
8:04 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Can Child Marriages Be Stopped?

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

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 4:05 pm

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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Law
3:30 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Illinois Files Suit Against Online Adoption Agency

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

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 5:57 pm

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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The Salt
1:32 am
Thu August 29, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 9:27 am

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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Law
3:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 6:40 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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Race
4:13 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Zimmerman Verdict Feels Personal For Some In Service Sorority

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

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 5:54 pm

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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Law
4:00 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

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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Environment
4:10 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Congress Not Likely To Pass Sweeping Climate Legislation

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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Law
12:26 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 6:20 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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Shots - Health News
12:57 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Joblessness Shortens Life Expectancy For White Women

Unemployment can be a health hazard.
unknown iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 2:39 pm

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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Law
1:46 am
Tue May 28, 2013

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

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 6:30 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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The Changing Lives Of Women
4:04 am
Wed May 15, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 7:21 pm

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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Around the Nation
3:34 am
Sun May 12, 2013

Bombing Suspect's Lawyer A Quiet Defender Of The Notorious

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

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 5:11 pm

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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Environment
2:35 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Filling In The Gap On Climate Education In Classrooms

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

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 12:50 pm

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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The Changing Lives Of Women
2:29 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Moving Out And Buying In: Single Ladies Emerge As Homeowners

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

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 8:38 am

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.

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Education
1:31 am
Wed March 27, 2013

A Hot Topic: Climate Change Coming To Classrooms

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

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 11:29 am

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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The Two-Way
10:27 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Modern Parenthood: More Equal, More Stressed

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

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 11:50 am

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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Business
12:59 am
Fri March 1, 2013

Stay-At-Home Workers Defend Choice After Yahoo Ban

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 11:51 am

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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Environment
1:14 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash

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

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 3:31 pm

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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