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Child adoption matching: preferences for gender and race

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This paper uses a new data set on child-adoption matching to document the preferences of potential adoptive parents over U.S.-born and unborn children relinquished for adoption by their birth mothers. We show that adoptive parents exhibit significant preferences in favor of girls and against African- American children. A non-African-American child relinquished for adoption attracts the interest of potential adoptive parents with probability 11.5% if it is a girl and 7.9% if it is a boy. As for race, a non-African-American child has a probability of attracting the interest of an adopting parent at least seven times as high as the corresponding probability for an African-American child. In addition, we show that a child’s desirability in the adoption process depends significantly on time to birth (increasing over the pregnancy, but decreasing after birth) and on adoption costs. We also document the attitudes toward children’ characteristics across different categories of adoptive parents – heterosexual and same-sex couples, as well as single women and foreign couples. Finally, we consider several recently discussed policies excluding same-sex and foreign couples from the adoption process. In our data, such policies would reduce the number of adopted children by 6% and 33%, respectively, and have a disproportionate effect on African-American children.

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