Some Cities Lag, Study Says

President Clinton will release a federal study today finding that most cities are doing well, that some cities are still lagging far behind the robust national economy and that many older suburbs are beginning to exhibit the problems traditionally associated with urban areas.

The third annual State of the Cities report will include some familiar good news about urban unemployment (down from 8.5 percent in 1992 to 5.1 percent in 1998), urban homeownership (over 50 percent for the first time ever) and urban wages (rising even faster than suburban wages). It also will point out that poverty rates in nearly one in every three cities are 50 percent higher than the national rate and that sustained population losses still plague about one in every five cities.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo said the study found that many inner-ring suburbs that emerged during the 1950s and 1960s are beginning to experience urban-style job losses, population losses, income inequality, crime and disinvestment. Meanwhile, newer outer-ring "exurbs" are struggling to battle building-boom sprawl. Clinton will push for city-suburban cooperation to rebuild older communities instead of overbuilding newer ones.

Social Security Work to Begin

Republicans and Democrats on a key House committee agreed yesterday to begin working on a compromise to safeguard Social Security, which faces insolvency by 2034.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex.) said the panel would hold closed meetings "to discuss areas of common ground" and possibly prepare a draft bill.

Contraceptives Insurance Bill

A bipartisan group of senators and representatives introduced legislation to extend insurance coverage for contraceptives to all women. Federal workers won the coverage last year.

"Women pay for contraceptives, and insurance companies pay for Viagra. What's wrong with this picture?" asked Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-Pa.) at a news conference unveiling a bill that would require insurance plans that cover prescription drugs and devices to provide equal coverage to prevent pregnancy.

One in three insurance companies offer contraceptives coverage, and the disparity forces women of childbearing age to spend an average of 68 percent more than men in out-of-pocket health care costs.

The lawmakers said their bill also would reduce the number of abortions, which end half of the unintended pregnancies in the United States.

The announcement came as 60 women's groups asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to instruct employers that excluding birth control pills and other contraceptives from their health plans amounts to sex discrimination.