Adoption: A Strategy to Fulfill Sex Preferences of U.S. Parents


adoption, children, demography, family formation, gender, siblings


Objective: This article examines adoption as a strategy used by parents in the United States to fulfill their preference for a specific sex composition among their children.

Background: Evidence from the United States suggests that parents with children of the same sex are more likely to continue childbearing, as parents generally desire at least one girl and one boy. What is unknown, however, is whether parents use adoption to fulfill this same preference.

Method: Using data from the 2016 American Community Survey (n = 1,107,800 children), the authors test the relationships among the sex composition of preceding siblings, child sex, and adoption status.

Results: Children who had same‐sex preceding siblings were more likely to be adopted, as opposed to biologically related to their parents, than children who had mixed‐sex preceding siblings. Furthermore, adopted children were more likely to be of the missing sex (i.e., adopted girls were more likely than were adopted boys to have only preceding brothers).

Conclusion: These findings suggest a need to consider parental sex preferences and child sex in studies on adoption decisions. Furthermore, the results point to adoption as an additional mechanism parents can use to achieve a balanced sex composition among their children.

Original Publication Citation

Gibby, Ashley Larsen and Kevin Thomas. 2019. “Adoption: A Strategy to Fulfill Sex Preferences of U.S. Parents.” Journal of Marriage and Family 81(2):531-541.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Marriage and Family




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor