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Orphanage Survey Tainted by Racial Bias

The recent article, "Graduates of Orphanages Have Done Well in Life," Dec. 22, presents a distorted view of the welfare of orphanage alumni in the United States.

Alumni sampled were from all-white orphanages. Other homes may not have had the same amount of funding or community support that these homes had. This could have had a significant impact on the quality of care the alumni received as children.

The race factor is especially significant in some of the comparisons drawn between alumni and non-alumni. For instance, the article clearly states that only 1 percent of all alumni surveyed were unemployed. This is compared with the 6 percent national unemployment rate for 1994. However, that rate includes both ethnic minorities and workers under the age of 44, who are more likely to be unemployed.

This race factor can be seen again in voting behavior. While the study found that alumni have higher rates of voting participation than the "general population," whites tend to have higher rates than minorities.

It is possible that sampling bias is one of the primary reasons that 92 percent of those surveyed "said they would prefer an orphanage to foster care." The survey sample was drawn from the alumni mailing lists of orphanages themselves. Those who were happiest with their orphanage experience are the most likely to keep an updated address with their former home.

This leaves me with some questions about economist Richard McKenzie's assertion that orphanages "might be the best ... option for many of today's children." It is unclear that orphanages provide better care than families. (One is also tempted to remind Mr. McKenzie, who claims to have worked up to 50 hours per week in his childhood orphanage, that child labor is restricted under US laws.) I would suggest doing a more comprehensive study, encompassing children of all ethnicities (including Native American children removed from their homes in the name of assimilation in earlier decades) and orphanage alumni not on the homes' mailing lists, before recommending that orphanages be brought back.

JoAnne S. Jennings

Irvine, Calif.

Taking the home-office deduction

Regarding the article "At-Home Businesses Get a Sympathetic Ear on Capitol Hill," Dec. 6: I've prepared thousands of income tax returns over the last 17 years as a practicing CPA. I disagree with much of the article, but am particularly horrified by this statement: " 'Claiming the home-office deduction now raises red flags all over your 1040, and invites a sure audit,' says [economist Pat] Choate. 'That's just one reason I don't take it - even though I certainly could.' "

I've taken hundreds of office-in-home deductions over the years, and not one of those deductions has ever been audited!

All returns are subject to audit, and the notion that one should forgo legitimate deductions out of fear is ludicrous. Follow the rules, see if the qualifications are there, and then take the deduction with the assurance that an audit would only serve to prove the validity of the claim.

The home-office deduction is complex and has received a lot of negative press, but I would encourage business owners to take the deduction when they qualify.

Linda Bergmann

Escondido, Calif.

Give credit where credit is due

The interesting article "When a Notable Collection of Art Breaks Up," Dec. 6, about the Morat Morandi collection, contained a major faux pas. The author fails to mention the organizing museum, the Des Moines Art Center, of the 1981-82 survey exhibition of the artist's work. James Demetrion, current director of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, was the impassioned organizer (10 years in the making) of this major exhibition.

Georgeann Kuhl

Harpswell, Maine

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