HHS/ASPE. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.Background

Race, ethnicity, and gender

This section reports on demographic indicators related to race, ethnicity, and gender for adopted children and their parents. These include the race and Hispanic origin of adopted children and of their parents, transracial adoption (that is, adoptions in which the race, ethnicity, or culture of origin differs for adopted children and their parents), and the child’s gender. Additionally, for internationally adopted children, we report on children’s region and country of origin. See Appendix Table 3 for detailed data on each indicator.

Figure 4. Pie charts showing the percentage distribution of all children and adopted children by race and Hispanic origin. All children: non-Hispanic white (56%), non-Hispanic black (14%), non-Hispanic Asian (4%), other non-Hispanic (6%), Hispanic (20%); Adopted children: non-Hispanic white (37%), non-Hispanic black (23%), non-Hispanic Asian (15%), other non-Hispanic (9%), Hispanic (15%).

Figure 5. Bar chart showing the percentage distribution of adopted children by race and Hispanic origin, by adoption type. Foster care: non-Hispanic white (37%), non-Hispanic black (35%), Hispanic origin (16%), non-Hispanic Asian (suppressed); Private domestic: non-Hispanic white (50%), non-Hispanic black (25%), Hispanic origin (13%), non-Hispanic Asian (suppressed); International: non-Hispanic white (19%), non-Hispanic black (3%), Hispanic origin (17%), non-Hispanic Asian (59%).

The race and ethnic distribution of adopted children is different from that of children in the general population. Adopted children are less likely to be white or of Hispanic origin than children in the general U.S. population, and they are more likely to be black;i see Figure 4. The racial distribution of children also varies by type of adoption, with children adopted from foster care most likely to be black (35 percent) and those adopted internationally least likely to be black (3 percent). Children adopted privately from the United States are most likely to be white (50 percent); those adopted internationally are least likely to be white (19 percent). The majority of children adopted internationally are Asian (59 percent). In comparison, very few children adopted from foster care or through private domestic adoptions are Asian; in fact, the proportion is so small that reliable estimates could not be generated. The percentage of adopted children who are Hispanic does not vary by type of adoption; see Figure 5.

Figure 6. Bar chart showing the percentage distribution of adopted children by race and Hispanic origin of their parents, by adoption type. Foster care: non-Hispanic white (63%), non-Hispanic black (27%), Hispanic origin (5%); private domestic: non-Hispanic white (71%), non-Hispanic black (19%), Hispanic origin (7%); International: non-Hispanic white (92%), non-Hispanic black (suppressed), Hispanic origin (suppressed).The race and ethnic distribution of adopted children is different from that of adoptive parents. Whereas a majority of adopted children are non-white, the majority of these children’s parents are white (73 percent). Sixty-three percent of children adopted from foster care have white parents, as do 71 percent of children adopted within the United States, and 92 percent of children adopted internationally.ii A substantial portion of adopted children have black parents, including 27 percent of children adopted from foster care and 19 percent of those adopted privately within the United States; see Figure 6.

Given that the racial and ethnic distribution of adopted children differs from that of their parents, it is not surprising that four out of ten children have parents who report that they and their spouse or partner (if they have one) are of a different race, ethnicity, or culture than their child. Children adopted internationally are most likely to be in transracial placements (84 percent), compared with 28 percent of children adopted from foster care and 21 percent of those adopted privately from within the United States; see Figure 7.

Figure 7. Bar chart showing the percentage of adopted children who were adopted transracially, by adoption type. All adopted children: 40%; foster care: 28%; private domestic: 21%; international: 84%.

Children’s gender distribution varies substantially by adoption type. Overall, about half of adopted children are male (49 percent), but gender distribution varies by adoption type. Only one-third of children adopted internationally are male (33 percent) compared with a slight majority of children adopted from foster care and through private domestic adoptions (57 and 51 percent, respectively). Among internationally adopted children, only 19 percent of Asian children are male, reflecting the large number of girls adopted from China.

Among internationally adopted children, more than twice as many were born in China as in any other individual country. Specifically, 33 percent of internationally adopted children lived in China prior to their adoption; the second-most common country of origin is Russia, with 13 percent. Eleven percent of the internationally adopted children originate from Guatemala, and another 11 percent originate from South Korea. Other countries from which internationally adopted children originate include India, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Ukraine, Philippines, and Ethiopia. All had too few children to generate reliable estimates of their frequency.

 

 

i All analyses pertaining to race and Hispanic origin examined mutually exclusive groupings. In other words, the racial categories white, black, Asian, and other exclude individuals who are non-Hispanic. Those identified as Hispanic may be of any race.


ii The difference between the percentages of adopted children who have non-Hispanic white parents is marginally significant for children adopted from foster care compared with those adopted privately from the United States (63 compared with 71 percent, respectively; p<.10).

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