What’s News?

There are only two ways to create a family: by birth and by choice. Each family is a small, intimate part of a vast global network of families that is as old as recorded history. This news-blog is compiled to provide perspective on social currents that affect all families, particularly those in transition. All posts are accurately sourced, and edited for length and clarity. Comments and criticisms are welcome: wallerstein@socialaw.com

U.S. Corporate Compensation Steadily Rising

November 8, 2019

By Tim McLaughlin, Reuters, Boston

The average annual compensation for non-executive directors at S&P 500 companies rose to $304,856 last year, topping $300,000 for the first time, and 43 percent higher than it was 10 years ago, according to a new report released by executive headhunters Spencer Stuart. But thanks largely to stock grants some earned a lot more than that. For example, the non-executive directors of Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs Group Inc. made $599,279 on average in 2018, the highest for any financial company in the Standard & Poor Index.

Unmarried Couples Gain in Numbers, But Married Couples May Be Happier

November 7, 2019

By Liam Stack, NY Times

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, the share of American adults who live with an unmarried partner has more than doubled since 1993, [to 7 percent from 3 percent], and the share of American adults who live with an unmarried partner has more than doubled since 1993, [to 7 percent from 3 percent]. According to the survey, unmarried couples report significantly less satisfaction in their relationships than do married couples, and that pattern is true across a broad range of areas: Married people are more likely than unmarried cohabitants to say they are “very satisfied” with the division of household chores (46 percent to 37 percent); with their partner’s communication skills (43 percent to 35 percent); and how well their partner balances work and personal life (43 percent to 35 percent).

Gun Ownership Rates Tied to Domestic Homicides

July 22, 2019

Sarah Mervosh, NY Times

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined firearm ownership on a state-by-state level from 1990 to 2016. It found that states with the highest rate of firearm ownership had a 65 percent higher rate of domestic gun homicide compared to states with a lower rate of ownership. That means that women, who make up most victims of domestic homicide, are among those most at risk, said Aaron Kivisto, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis and the lead author on the study. He said “It is women, in particular, who are bearing the burden of this increased gun ownership.” The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations can increase the risk of homicide for women by as much as 500 percent, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Another study found that intimate partner homicides are on the rise, fueled primarily by gun violence. In 2017, 926 of 1,527 women murdered by partners were killed with guns, the study found. Over all, gun-related domestic killings increased by 26 percent from 2010 to 2017.

The Tampon Tax

July 12, 2019
Karen Zraick, NY Times

Why are tampons taxed when Viagra isn’t? That’s the question at the heart of efforts to repeal the so-called ‘tampon tax’, a sales tax now levied on menstrual products in 35 states. Twenty-two states considered eliminating the tampon tax this year. Opponents argue that menstrual products should be treated as medical supplies, and that a tampon tax amounts to sex-based discrimination.

The Swelling Wealth Gap in America

June 24, 2019
Patricia Cohen, NY Times

A recent analysis of a Federal Reserve report found that over the last three decades, the wealthiest one percent of Americans saw their net worth grow by $21 trillion, while the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion. Imposing a wealth tax on the country’s thin sliver of multimillionaires and billionaires is attracting support from a handful of those who would pay it. A letter being published online on Monday calls for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

“NO VISIBLE BRUISES, What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us”

June 7, 2019, NY Times

Alisa Roth reviews Rachel Louise Snyder’s book

Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States yet its rarely discussed. Fifty women a month are shot and killed by their partners. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness. And 80 percent of hostage situations involve an abusive partner. Nor is it only a question of physical harm: In some 20 percent of abusive relationships a perpetrator has total control of his victim’s life. (Countries including Britain and France have laws to protect against this kind of abuse, but the United States does not.) This shouldn’t surprise us. For most of our history, domestic violence has been considered a private matter. The first law to protect victims of domestic abuse passed Congress only in 1984. And it would take a dozen more years before the first national hotline for victims was established. (One outcome of the #MeToo movement may be a greater willingness to report domestic violence: In 2018, calls to the national domestic violence hotline reportedly went up 30 percent.) As recently as the 1990s, there were three times as many shelters for abused pets as there were for abused partners.

As World Makes Gains Against Child Marriage, Nepal Struggles to Catch Up

June 6, 2019
Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, NY Times

In many parts of the world, the battle against child marriage is being won, with global rates dropping significantly over the last decade, largely because of progress in South Asia. But the story is complicated in Nepal, one of the region’s poorest countries, where activists say these marriages are increasing in some villages. According to new data released Friday by Unicef, about 765 million people alive today were married as children. Nepal has some of the world’s highest rates of such marriages, Unicef found, even though the practice has technically been illegal in the country since 1963

Sperm Bank Errors

June 4, 2019
Jacqueline Mroz, NY Times

While there are no annual statistics on the number of US children born through artificial insemination, many experts have estimated the number may be as high as 60,000… and no one tracks the number of people who find that the sperm they purchased is not from the donor they chose. With DNA tests widely available, increasing numbers of parents, (or sometimes their donor-conceived children), are discovering that the wrong sperm was provided by a sperm bank, or fertility clinic, often decades after the fact. According to Dov Fox, director of the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics at the University of San Diego “Sperm banks are very lightly regulated… and switches or mix-ups are far more common than we know.”

New York Mulls Ending Ban on Paid Surrogacy Contracts

The Associated Press, NY Times

New York’s Legislature could soon repeal one of the nation’s last bans on paid surrogacy contracts, in which a woman is compensated for carrying the child of another person or couple. New York and Michigan are now the only two states that expressly forbid surrogacy contracts, forcing many prospective parents to go to other states to start a family.

People See More Diversity and Gender Equality

April 22, 2019
Sintia Radu, International Affairs, U.S. News & World Report

According to a survey of 30,133 people in 27 countries conducted in the spring of 2018 by the Pew Research Center, people around the world generally say their country is more diverse and has greater gender equality today compared to the past, but also say overall family ties are getting weaker. “Medians of around seven-in-ten say their countries have become more diverse and that gender equality has increased over the past 20 years.” Fifty-eight percent of people surveyed say family ties have weakened in the past 20 years. Countries where that belief is strongest include South Korea (83%), Tunisia (74%), Poland (67%) and the U.S. (64%). Men are more likely than women to say gender equality has increased, and countries that showed the greatest differences between men and women’s views on gender equality include Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Canada.

Human Contact Is Becoming a Luxury

March 23, 2019
Nellie Bowles, NY Times

Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens. Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass. Milton Pedraza, chief executive of The Luxury Institute [https://www.luxuryinstitute.com/] advises companies on how the wealthiest want to live and spend, and he has found is that the wealthy want to spend on anything human. “What we are seeing now is the luxurification of human engagement.”