Babies Across Borders: The Political Economy of International Child Adoption


This article analyzes the determinants of international child adoption. We argue that prospective parents’ desire to reduce transaction costs and ensure a successfully completed adoption influences adoption flows. Drawing on dyadic panel data over the period 1991–2010, we fit hurdle models to identify sending-country and dyad characteristics that correlate with adoption flows. We show that an international agreement designed to ensure the integrity of adoption depresses foreign adoptions by raising transaction costs. By contrast, adoption is more likely when sending countries have a high-quality regulatory environment and when colonial or migration ties exist within the dyad. Our findings highlight the impact of transaction costs on transnational, non-market exchange, expand political economy models of migration, and emphasize the importance of private international law in international relations.

International Studies Quarterly
Asif Efrat
Associate Professor of Government
David Leblang
Ambassador Henry J. Taylor and Mrs Marion R. Taylor Endowed Professor of Politics
Steven Liao
Steven Liao
Associate Professor of Political Science
Sonal Pandya
Associate Professor of Politics