The Free Market Approach to Adoption: The Value of a Baby

20 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2007 Last revised: 5 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: 2006


Adoption processes in the United States, once based on the altruistic child welfare model, have morphed to reflect the desires of would-be parents. The author argues that the current adoption model in the United States resembles an unregulated marketplace in children. Whether lawmakers and citizens wish to recognize this marketplace, its existence is demonstrated by frequent financial transactions among adoptive parents, birth mothers, and adoption agencies that resemble payments. The author explores this marketplace and the way in which race, genetic traits, and class are implicated in adoption processes, resulting in higher fees associated with the adoption of children with desirable traits. The author proposes two mechanisms by which the government could regulate the adoption market - price caps and taxation. Ultimately, however, the author advocates greater transparency and information in the adoption process to protect the welfare of children who might otherwise be exploited in an unregulated adoption market.

Keywords: adoption, market, economics, race, class, taxation, privacy

JEL Classification: A1, D61, D63, D64, I3, Z00

Suggested Citation

Goodwin, Michele, The Free Market Approach to Adoption: The Value of a Baby (2006). Boston College Third World Law Journal, Vol. 26, 2006; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper . Available at SSRN:

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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