Population Research and Policy Review 21: 205–225, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Intercountry adoption in the new millennium; the “quiet
Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Abstract. Intercountry adoption is not usually seen as a matter for demographers, although
articles in the International Migration Review have looked at international adoption as a
migratory process. This article outlines the author’s estimate of the number of intercountry
adoptions world-wide, using data recorded by 18 receiving states in the 1990s. Data from
selected receiving countries are used to estimate the number of adoptions from states of origin.
Comparisons are made with data for 14 countries over the period 1980–89 collated by Kane
The global estimate of at least 32,000 adoptions in 1998 is much higher than the numbers
usually cited and suggest a rise of ﬁfty percent over the previous decade. Total numbers are
dominated by adoptions to the United States and from China and Russia. However standard-
isation against population size or number of live births suggests that the highest rates among
receiving states are to be found in Scandinavia, while the highest rates for states of origin
are in countries of Eastern Europe, followed by Korea – countries typiﬁed by very low birth
rates. The article ends with a discussion of the implications of these ﬁndings for the future of
international controls and the implementation of the 1993 Hague Convention.
Keywords: Adoption, Children, International, Migration
Child adoption is not usually seen as a matter of concern for demograph-
ers, but rather an issue of primary interest to social workers, lawyers and
psychologists and of secondary interest to sociologists and anthropologists.
The requirements for a demography of domestic adoption in Britain and
the United States was considered in an earlier paper by the author (Selman
1997) presented at a meeting of the International Sociological Association
in Beijing and has been discussed elsewhere in greater detail in respect of
adoption trends in England & Wales (Selman 1976 and 1988) and in a cohort
analysis of adoptees’ access to birth records (Selman 1999b).
This lack of demographic analysis is also true of transnational or inter-
country adoption (ICA), although a recent article in the International Migra-
tion Review (Lovelock 2000) looks at intercountry adoption as a migratory