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 role of dads, the impact of rising student debt loads, 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.

Pages

Around the Nation
1:35 am
Thu September 13, 2012

Can Marriage Save Single Mothers From Poverty?

New census figures showing a link between single motherhood and poverty have some analysts touting marriage as a means to curb poverty. But others say it's not so simple.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 12:05 pm

Newly released census figures show a long-standing and glaring contrast: A third of families headed by single mothers are in poverty, and they are four times more likely than married-couple families to be poor. The disparity is on the rise, and as the number of single mothers grows, analysts are debating if more marriages could mean less poverty.

Read more
U.S.
1:13 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Helping Foster Kids Even After Adoption

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 7:32 am

Say "adoption" and many Americans think "babies." The U.S. system was largely organized around placing infants, both from this country and abroad. It turns out that, by far, the largest number of adoptions in the U.S. is through the foster care system. That means toddlers, young children, even teens.

Yet many in the field say the system does little to help families cope with the special issues a number of these children will face, even years after adoption.

Read more
Around the Nation
2:27 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Would-Be Parents Wait As Foreign Adoptions Plunge

Mike Cannata with 2-year-old Bella. Mike and his wife, Barb, brought Bella home from Bulgaria this past spring after spending five years attempting to adopt.
Marisa Penaloza NPR

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 1:15 pm

When Barb and Mike Cannata adopted their first daughter from China almost a decade ago, the process was smooth and relatively quick β€” just 17 months from start to finish.

Now a chatty and confident 9-year-old, Emma is an accomplished equestrian with her show horse, Ajax. But the family had trouble explaining to Emma why it took so long to get her a little sister.

When the Cannatas decided to adopt again in 2007, Barb Cannata says, everything had changed. They ruled out China early on.

Read more
Economy
2:09 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Call Me Maybe When Your School Loan Is Paid In Full

Some young adults say their student loan debt affects their dating and marriage potential. A few have had partners break up with them over debt, while other couples forge ahead, but keep finances separate and avoid legal marriage.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 3:12 pm

The increasing debt load of college graduates has affected young people's lives in untold ways, from career choices to living arrangements. Now add another impact on a key part of young adult life: dating and marriage.

Rachel Bingham, an art teacher in Portland, Maine, learned this a few years back, when a guy broke it off after four months of a budding relationship. Among other reasons, he cited her $80,000 in student loan debt.

"He said it scared him," she recalls, "that it really made him anxious. And he just did not want to take on my responsibility."

Read more
Crime In The City
1:22 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Big Crime, Little State: Murder, Mystery In R.I.

Roger Williams, memorialized with a statue in Prospect Terrace Park, founded Providence in 1636. According to crime writer Bruce DeSilva, corruption set in not long after.
Will Hart via Flickr

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 8:20 am

Providence, R.I., has a history of mob violence rivaling that of New York or New Jersey, but it comes with a gritty intimacy that could only be found in the nation's littlest state. Author Bruce DeSilva says that's what makes Providence the perfect place to set his crime fiction.

"It is big enough to have the usual array of urban problems," he says. "But it's so small that it's claustrophobic. It's very hard to keep a secret in places like that."

Read more
American Dreams: Then And Now
3:51 am
Sat June 30, 2012

Buried In Debt, Young People Find Dreams Elusive

Michelle Holshue racked up $140,000 in student loan debt while training to become a public health nurse. She's living her dream of helping others, she says, but never expected it "to be so hard."
Emily Bogle NPR

Originally published on Sat June 30, 2012 5:32 am

Growing up near Philadelphia, Michelle Holshue's dream was to serve those in need. Applying to nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania seemed like a smart move β€” in 2007.

Nursing jobs were plentiful. The students' running joke was that hospital executives would soon be stopping them in the street, begging them to come to work.

Then the economy tanked. For a time, Holshue was an Ivy League grad on unemployment and food stamps.

Read more
U.S.
1:02 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Single Dads By Choice: More Men Going It Alone

Brian Tessier, who adopted two children as a single father, with son Ben. Tessier has started a hotline for prospective single dads.
Erika Hart Courtesy of Brian Tessier

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 1:22 pm

B.J. Holt always wanted to be a dad. As he approached 40, with no life partner in sight, he felt a version of the ticking biological clock.

"The 'having the children thing' started to overwhelm the desire to have the relationship first," Holt says. "They sort of switched on me."

So Holt decided to go it alone. A few years ago, he used an egg donor and a surrogate to create a family of his own.

First came Christina, now 4, a strawberry-blond bundle of energy who loves to stage ballet performances in the living room of their New York City apartment.

Read more
Economy
12:54 am
Thu May 10, 2012

College Grads Struggle To Gain Financial Footing

Graduates of the University of Alabama's class of 2011. The economic downturn has hit recent college grads hard. New data show only half of those who graduated from 2006 to 2011 are working full time.
Butch Dill AP

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 2:48 am

Most of the estimated 1.5 million people graduating from a four-year college this spring will soon be looking for a job.

If the experiences of other recent college grads are any guide, many will be disappointed.

A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.

Settling For Part Time

Read more
Presidential Race
1:23 am
Fri April 20, 2012

Working Moms' Challenges: Paid Leave, Child Care

Many working mothers say their employers don't support them when they need to tend to a sick child. In this file photo, a single mother holds her child at a health clinic in Colorado.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 6:55 am

The past week's political firestorm in the presidential race focused on stay-at-home moms, but two-thirds of women with young children now work. Nearly half are their family's primary breadwinner. What some feel is being lost in the political debate are the challenges they face in the workplace.

When Kids Get Sick

Read more
Making Babies: 21st Century Families
3:32 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Ties That Bind: When Surrogate Meets Mom-To-Be

Surrogate Whitney Watts had her son, J.P., while her husband, Ray Watts, was at sea with the Navy. Surrogacy experts say it's crucial for surrogates to have their own children because they'd presumably understand the emotions involved in bearing a child. The couple for whom Whitney carried twins paid for all expenses during the pregnancy, including private health insurance.
Marisa PeΓ±aloza NPR

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 3:55 pm

Second in a four-part report

As she approached her sixth month of pregnancy last year, Whitney Watts' cervix had started to shorten. It's a common problem with twins. Watts was concerned, and was taking care not to overexert herself.

But it's probably fair to say her condition was far more frightening for Susan de Gruchy, the woman who had hired Watts to be a surrogate because she and her husband were unable to conceive. Nearly 400 miles away, de Gruchy was obsessed with worry.

Read more
Making Babies: 21st Century Families
2:29 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Legal Debate Over Surrogacy Asks, Who Is A Parent?

William Stern holds his daughter, then known as Baby M, in 1987. The Sterns' surrogate tried to keep the baby after she was born. Their court battle became the first public debate about surrogacy.
M. Elizabeth Fulford AP

Third in a four-part report

These days it can take a village to create a child. Technology means someone who never thought they'd be able to conceive can use a sperm donor, an egg donor and a surrogate β€” a woman who bears a child for someone else. But the law has not kept pace with technology, and with so many people involved, a key question remains: Who is a legal parent?

Read more
Your Money
3:23 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

Your (Virtual) Future Self Wants You To Save Up

Professor Hal Hershfield (left), 32, uses a computer program to get an idea of what he might look like at 70 (right).
Chinthaka Herath Courtesy of Hal Hershfield

Originally published on Wed April 11, 2012 7:22 pm

A retirement crisis is looming. As people live longer, one study finds that half of all households are at risk of coming up short on retirement money. And while many working households may feel they simply don't have enough to spare for retirement, experts say some of the biggest barriers to saving up are psychological.

Read more
All Tech Considered
9:01 am
Thu February 23, 2012

CU In Court: Texts Can Be A Divorce Lawyer's Dream

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 4:36 pm

Americans have learned to carefully craft their Facebook postings, and edit and spell-check e-mails. But apparently we don't give text messages much thought, and they're providing abundant and effective fodder for divorce attorneys.

Read more
Around the Nation
2:10 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Helicopter Parents Hover In The Workplace

As the millennial generation enters the workforce, employers report that parents are taking an increasingly active role advocating on behalf of their children.
Images Bazaar Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 6, 2012 5:33 pm

So-called helicopter parents first made headlines on college campuses a few years ago, when they began trying to direct everything from their children's course schedules to which roommate they were assigned.

With millennial children now in their 20s, more helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace, sometimes even phoning human resources managers to advocate on their child's behalf.

Megan Huffnagle, a former human resources manager at a Denver theme park, recalls being shocked several years ago when she received a call from a young job applicant's mother.

Read more
All Tech Considered
11:45 am
Tue December 27, 2011

Tutors Teach Seniors New High-Tech Tricks

At Pace University in New York, college students who tutor seniors in local retirement homes are prepped with sensitivity training. Brittany Beckett (left), a Pace student, and Muriel Cohen work together at United Hebrew of New Rochelle.
Courtesy of Pace University

A week after Christmas, many Americans are no doubt trying to figure out how to use the high-tech gadgets they got as gifts. This can be especially challenging for seniors. But a number of programs across the country are finding just the right experts to help usher older adults into the digital age.

For Pamela Norr, of Bend, Oregon, the light bulb went off as she, yet again, was trying to help her own elder parents with a tech problem. To whom did she turn?

"My teenage kids," she says.

Read more
Around the Nation
10:01 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

When It Comes To Marriage, Many More Say 'I Don't'

Marriage β€” it's so last century. A new report finds that the share of all U.S. adults who are married has dropped to its lowest on record.
iStockphoto.com

The share of all U.S. adults who are married has dropped to a record low 51 percent, according to a new report. If the trend continues, the institution will soon lose its majority status in American life.

The report being released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center finds new marriages dropped a sharp 5 percent last year, which is very likely related to the bad economy. Pew senior writer D'Vera Cohn says it fits with a larger trend.

Read more
Shots - Health Blog
3:21 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

To Keep Marriage Healthy When Baby Comes, Share Housework

A survey identifies traits, like generosity, that help couples buck the trend toward marital discord once baby arrives.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 8, 2011 3:24 pm

As many couples can attest β€” and lots of research backs this up β€” marital happiness plummets with the arrival of a baby. Sleepless nights, seemingly endless diaper changes and the avalanche of new chores that come with a newborn leave little time for the intimacies of marriage. It's a situation ripe for mental stress and marital discord.

Read more
Making Babies: 21st Century Families
10:01 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Many Women Underestimate Fertility Clock's Clang

Kate Donnellon Nail, 43, works out regularly and eats well. She never thought she would have a problem conceiving a child.
Courtesy of Kate Donnellon Nail

A new survey finds a big disconnect when it comes to fertility. The age women think they can conceive a baby is far different from what their bodies are actually capable off. This poses an increasing problem, as more women wait longer than ever to have children.

Kate Donnellon Nail never imagined she'd have trouble conceiving. For one thing, people always tell the San Francisco musician she looks much younger than her 43 years.

"I work out regularly, I have a personal trainer," she says. "I've been doing yoga for 15 years."

Read more
Around the Nation
1:11 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Parenting Advice For The 20-Something Years

Brian Griffith (left), shown here in 2009 at age 26, moved home with his parents, Jay and Jennifer Griffith, after losing his job. The tight job market, especially for college grads, has prompted many young adults to move back in with their parents.
Robert Lahser MCT /Landov

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 3:53 pm

From pregnancy on, parents often keep a stack of bedside reading full of advice on raising children β€” survival tips from the terrible toddler years through annoying adolescence. Los Angeles comedy writer Gail Parent figured she'd be done with all that once her kids turned the magical age of 21.

"Because I didn't tell my parents anything bad or negative," she says. "I let them be very peaceful about me when I was an adult. But I had told my kids to tell me everything when they were young."

Read more

Pages