The price of babies, by color

My wife and I are thinking of adopting and shockingly found in Texas, the cost for a white infant was $35,000 and the cost of a black infant was $17,000 – these are published numbers on private adoption websites.

A Freakonomics comment on the supply and demand for babies.

I imagine market segmentation (not necessarily the same thing as racism) plus differential supply is the most likely explanation, but I am still a bit depressed.

Research suggests the pattern is a general one.

Hat tip James Choi.

10 thoughts on “The price of babies, by color

  1. there is also a difference in prices for girls and boys, baby girls are in highest demand (even black ones- when it comes to adoption from places like China and Ethiopia).
    Sad and also it creates more problems and some ‘non orphan’ baby girls will be sold for adoption in these places.

  2. Is it possible that babies of colour are less expensive because they generally come from lower income countries and thus the payments that adoption agencies need to pay local orphanages to cover their costs are lower? Probably a naive thought but trying to think the best of people.

  3. I think I understand what you mean by “differential supply”–that there is a greater supply of black babies than white (which also wouldn’t necessarily be racist, because there could still be an equal *demand* for each race under this scenario)–but I don’t completely understand what you mean by “market segmentation.”

    Is it that there are two separate markets entirely, with two separate sets of buyers–white parents-to-be and black parents-to-be–and because most buyers prefer a baby of their own color, and because white buyers have higher incomes than black, the cost of a white baby is higher? Or am I mistaken…

  4. From the Yariv et al paper you/ cited:

    “Homophily, defined as individuals’ preference for similarity, is well-established in the sociological literature. In the adoption context, homophily can translate into PAPs [prospective adopted parents] preferring adopted children that resemble them in looks, who can potentially pass as their biological children… While we suspect that this taste for similarity is at the root of some of the racial preferences we observe, it cannot fully explain the preferences we document.”

  5. “Market segmentation” maybe isn’t the best word. All you would need is some friction. It could come from homophily (preferences). It could be that parents do not have color preferences but in a society where racial identity is important they think they would have more trouble raising a child of another race. Maybe they don’t want it to be obvious to the world they adopted, or conceal it from the kid.

    You don’t necessarily need differential demand. Different supply would technically be enough. But I suspect there is higher demand for adoption through formal processes among whites in the US.

    Anyways, in case it is not already evident, I am making this up as I go along.

  6. “Anyways, in case it is not already evident, I am making this up as I go along.”

    I’m suddenly optimistic about my chances of one day becoming an econ prof. I was buying that, hook, line, and sinker.

  7. wow slavery is still alive in america each child has a price tag is tehre also a slave market were they are auctioned how terrible

  8. I’m reposting what I said originally, when I saw this quote wandering the internet:

    Hey! I worked in private adoption, and there’s a relevant part of this missing.

    ONE: What happens was that for a while, black babies just never ever ever got adopted. They grew up in institutions, etc, and that’s really shitty and damaging. Do not want. So, to try to convince this to stop, states (?may have been federal?) started subsidizing the costs of adopting black children. And it’s working! For many adoption agencies, the cost of adopting black children is slowly being raised, as more and more black families are adopting (this was also at issue—higher levels of stigma for adoption among black families, etc. Not to mention, adoption service workers are embarrassingly, overwhelmingly white. This too, we are fixing!) So yes, it is ‘cheaper’ to adopt a black child. This is true. The alternative had black children growing up without families, attachment, or nurturing care. I’m fairly comfortable with this being considered worse.

    TWO. In private adoption (like the OP is talking about), social workers can ask about race. This isn’t allowed in public adoptions. What does that mean? It means we can say “what makes you qualified to adopt this black baby, White Woman/Man? And when they say “well, I don’t see race!” we can say “Uh, so, first you’re going to need to take some classes, and second you’re going to need to get back to us after that.” We’re allowed to train potential adoptive parents to deal sensitively with transracial adoption, to teach their adopted children about their race, to make damn sure those children don’t grow up only seeing homogenous white family and friends (where I worked required that you had a long-time relationship of some kind with the culture you were adopting from, if it was not your own). And we can decline to let someone adopt based on their racism or behavior about race and that’s allowed! (something not easily done elsewhere in adoption services.)

    Children raised to think their parents only want to befriend or spend time with not-the-adopted-childs-race do more poorly in adoption than others. We want to fix that. And that’s possible in private adoption more so than public.

    So yeah, racism is pretty fucked up. But this is actually a policy that has demonstrated positive effects for those black children that adoption agencies are working to decrease the need for, that isn’t possible elsewhere.

  9. I should also add that the tone of my previous comment sounds like it’s responding to claims of racism (it was, I was only seeing versions of this attached to notes about how racist the system was). I realize the original posting is not doing so, but the reasoning behind the cost differential still stands.

    In many places, the agencies are trying to actively recruit black families to adopt, so that black or multi-racial birthparents who want their child to grow up in a black family can pick between options. This has been partially successful; as of a few years ago, black families in my area of work waited about two months to adopt, white families were on waiting lists for an average of 18 months. (Of course, you’re ‘winning’ when everyone waits about an equal amount of time, and that might not actually be a desirable outcome)

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