Why do parents adopt so many girls?

The evidence suggests that fathers prefer boys over girls. For instance a couple is more likely to stay married when they have a boy rather than a girl. Here is my earlier summary of the research.

At the same time couples are far more likely to adopt girls rather than boys? How can this be?

A recent Slate article offers some figures:

Numbers vary, but it’s pretty safe to say that somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent of parents looking to adopt register some preference for a girl with an agency. It doesn’t matter if they’re adopting from China, where girls far outnumber boys; from Russia, where the numbers are about even; or from Cambodia, where there is typically a glut of orphan boys and a paucity of girls. Everywhere, demand tends to favor the feminine.

Steven Landsburg had suggested an adverse selection argument. Yes boys are favored but if a boy is put up for adoption, you can figure there is something wrong with the boy, for precisely that reason.

Or perhaps it is easier to nurture girls, and the nurturing motive may be central to the adoption decision. It also may be the case that mothers prefer girls and mothers also drive adoptions:

“The extent to which women are the driving force in most adoptions is probably a factor,” he says. “It’s usually true that the women are filling out the paperwork, going to the conferences, the support groups.” He adds, “If I speak at a conference–whether it’s on adoption or family issues–at least 80 to 90 percent of any of these audiences are women.”

My take: Having a boy is a riskier investment than having a girl. The risk rises dramatically with adoptions, given the associated genetic uncertainty. Males are more likely to have genetic roots for criminality and mental illness. So if you don’t know much about the parents, better to play it safe and opt for a girl.


Comments for this post are closed