Examining the Effects of Antidiscrimination Laws on Child Welfare: Law on the Books

56 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2022 Last revised: 4 Apr 2022

See all articles by Netta Barak Corren

Netta Barak Corren

Harvard Law School; Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Yoav Kan-Tor

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering

Nelson Tebbe

Cornell Law School

Date Written: February 25, 2022

Abstract

Are children harmed when states act to prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to foster or adopt? This question stands at the heart of a heated debate between religious child welfare agencies that challenge such antidiscrimination laws on constitutional grounds and cities and states that seek to enforce them. Yet until now there has been no reliable evidence on this issue.

We conduct the first nationwide study on child outcomes of legal changes in state civil rights laws affecting child welfare agencies. We find that state antidiscrimination laws generally had either no effect or a positive effect on child welfare. Looking at the years between 2000 and 2020, we discover that, on average, antidiscrimination laws increase children’s success of finding both foster homes and adoptive homes and reduce the time it takes to place children in both settings. The effects vary among subgroups, such that often children who are least likely to find a home benefit from larger positive effects as a result of state antidiscrimination laws. Our project, which uses both machine learning and traditional regression methods, advances both empirical methodology and normative argument. It brings empirical grounding to some of the most heated constitutional and political battles of the culture wars.

Keywords: child welfare, culture wars, conflicts of rights, LGBTQ equality, sexual orientation discrimination, religious freedom, religious exemptions, Fulton, machine learning, random forest, empirical legal studies

JEL Classification: H53, I38, J16, C63, K00, K32, K36, K30

Suggested Citation

Barak Corren, Netta and Kan-Tor, Yoav and Tebbe, Nelson, Examining the Effects of Antidiscrimination Laws on Child Welfare: Law on the Books (February 25, 2022). Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Research Paper No. 22-7, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4044034 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4044034

Netta Barak Corren (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905
Israel

Yoav Kan-Tor

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering ( email )

Israel

Nelson Tebbe

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
(607) 255-3506 (Phone)

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