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Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?


  • Raleigh, Elizabeth
  • Kao, Grace


In one of the first longitudinal population-based studies examining adopted children's educational achievement, we analyze whether there is a test-score gap between children in adoptive families and children in biological families. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we find in aggregate adopted children have lower reading and math scores than their counterparts living in biological families. Yet there is significant variation among adoptive families by their race and health status. On one hand adoptive parents tend to be White and have more economic capital than their non-adoptive counterparts potentially contributing to educational advantages. However adopted children are also more likely to have special educational needs, contributing to greater educational disadvantages. Untangling these variables through a multivariate regression analysis, we find that transracially adopted children have similar test scores to White children living with biological parents. We point to the interaction between race, family resources and children's health status and how these characteristics differentially shape achievement outcomes for adopted children.

Suggested Citation

  • Raleigh, Elizabeth & Kao, Grace, 2013. "Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 142-150.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:35:y:2013:i:1:p:142-150
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.09.019

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith-McKeever, Chedgzsey, 2006. "Adoption satisfaction among African-American families adopting African-American children," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(7), pages 825-840, July.
    2. Kaushal, Neeraj & Nepomnyaschy, Lenna, 2009. "Wealth, race/ethnicity, and children's educational outcomes," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 963-971, September.
    3. Brooks, Devon & James, Sigrid, 2003. "Willingness to adopt back foster children: implications for child welfare policy and recruitment of adoptive families," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(5-6), pages 463-489.
    4. Wilson, Samantha L. & Weaver, Terri L. & Cradock, Mary Michaeleen & Kuebli, Janet E., 2008. "A preliminary study of the cognitive and motor skills acquisition of young international adoptees," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 585-596, May.
    5. Groze, Victor, 1996. "A 1 and 2 year follow-up study of adoptive families and special needs children," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1-2), pages 57-82.
    6. Mohanty, Jayashree & Newhill, Christina, 2006. "Adjustment of international adoptees: Implications for practice and a future research agenda," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 384-395, April.
    7. Sharma, Anu R. & McGue, Matthew K. & Benson, Peter L., 1996. "The emotional and behavioral adjustment of United States adopted adolescents: Part I. An overview," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1-2), pages 83-100.
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