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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The Salt
12:04 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 8:42 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
1:36 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 4:13 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
2:24 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 7:40 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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Child Brides
6:47 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 3:05 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
2:30 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 4:57 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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Economic Recovery
12:32 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 8:27 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
2:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 5:40 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
3:13 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 4:54 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
3:00 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
3:10 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
11:26 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 5:20 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
11:57 am
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 1:39 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
12:46 am
Tue May 28, 2013

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

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 5:30 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
3:04 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 6:21 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
2:34 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 4:11 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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