Constructing Interracial Families Through Intercountry Adoption


  • * Direct correspondence to Hiromi Ishizawa, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 326 Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801 〈〉 or 〈〉. Hiromi Ishizawa will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments. An earlier version of this research was presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Objective. This article analyzes the role of race and ethnicity in constructing American families through intercountry adoption. We argue that such adoptions illustrate the fluidity and tenacity of specific racial boundaries in American families.

Methods. Data are drawn from the U.S. 2000 Census—the first to contain information on children's adoptive status—to examine whether race of parents and adopted children match and whether racial matching varies by the characteristics of adoptive families and adopted children.

Results. Our findings indicate that minority-race parents are more likely than white parents to adopt a child of the same race as themselves, and that the odds of white parents, in particular, adopting a white versus nonwhite child from abroad are related to factors such as the age, sex, and health status of the child, as well the presence of other children in the household.

Conclusion. Parents weigh a constellation of factors, including attributes of the adopted child and the children already in the household, when adopting a child of the same or different race from abroad.