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Title: Insights from Adoption: A Demographic, Economic and Political Study of Intercountry Adoption Policy and Patterns in China Since 1992
Authors: Lodge, Frances
Advisors: Paluck, Elizabeth
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Certificate Program: East Asian Studies Program
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: Since the inception of the intercountry adoption program in 1992, China has sent over 130,000 children abroad for intercountry adoption. Today, however, adoptions from China are increasingly rare; since their peak in 2005, intercountry adoptions from China have fallen by nearly 85%. Little consensus exists among those who study and work in adoption as to what is driving this dramatic decline. The potential explanations range widely; they include recent changes in Chinese intercountry adoption legislation, the relaxation of the one-child policy, an increase in domestic adoptions, and various other social factors that have directly reduced the number of abandoned or orphaned children. What is of primary interest to this thesis is evaluating how these changes in China’s adoption landscape have occurred in conjunction with more distal and also dramatic developments in China’s macro-level dynamics. While most of the existing literature examines the proximate causes of the decline, focusing primarily on granular adoption and family planning policy changes, I contend that the decline is better understood against a bigger set of macro-level demographic, socioeconomic, and political forces, in addition to micro-level policy factors. In visiting these macro causes, I examine how they created the environment for new policy, as well as how they have contributed to broader trends occurring within the Chinese adoption landscape. To make this argument, I primarily draw on literature produced by adoption scholars, as well as Chinese adoption legislation and public statements made by Chinese government officials. I also conducted ten formal interviews, of which eight are named in the body of this work, and two were off the record, used only for background information. Interviews were conducted in both Beijing and New York City, involving members of both US and Chinese adoption communities, across four relevant groups: adoption industry professionals, children’s welfare specialists, government officials, and adoptive parents. This thesis ultimately argues that the Chinese adoption landscape – characterized as the patterns of domestic and international adoption, the demographics of children available for adoption, and the supporting policy infrastructure – has existed as an institutional buffer to external demographic, economic and political forces. I show how the adoption landscape has absorbed – and therefore evidences – these three separate historical forces; first, China’s growing population and the demographic consequences of its history of birth planning, second, its improving economic conditions and the accompanying socioeconomic developments, and third, China’s rising stature on the international political stage. The implications of this argument are vast; first, if we are to accept that the adoption landscape can serve as a type of an indicator of these internal changes, current and future shifts within the adoption landscape should be understood as a useful window into internal developments in China. Furthermore, it suggests that the Chinese institution of adoption, as it has existed since the early 1990s, has frequently deferred to other interests and concerns, besides those of the children involved.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2023
East Asian Studies Program, 2017-2022

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