Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?

Elizabeth Raleigh and Grace Kao:

In one of the first longitudinal population-based studies examining adopted children’s educational achievement, we analyze whether there is a test-score gap between children in adoptive families and children in biological families. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we find in aggregate adopted children have lower reading and math scores than their counterparts living in biological families. Yet there is significant variation among adoptive families by their race and health status. On one hand adoptive parents tend to be White and have more economic capital than their non-adoptive counterparts potentially contributing to educational advantages. However adopted children are also more likely to have special educational needs, contributing to greater educational disadvantages. Untangling these variables through a multivariate regression analysis, we find that transracially adopted children have similar test scores to White children living with biological parents. We point to the interaction between race, family resources and children’s health status and how these characteristics differentially shape achievement outcomes for adopted children.


A national benchmark of educational performance of adopted children.

We untangle the effects of adoption from family resources and child characteristics.

Through a longitudinal analysis, we examine how the achievement gap widens over time.

We find adopted children have lower test scores than children in biological families.

But transracial adoptees have higher test scores than White non-adopted children.