Document Type

Working Paper




Child Welfare, Foster Care, LGBTQ, Discrimination, Field Experiment




Working Papers Series


The authors thank Jordan Koster for her research assistance. We are also grateful to Colleen Heflin, Kerri Raissian, Michah Rothbart, and seminar participants at Syracuse University and at the 2019 Fall Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Conference for comments made on earlier versions of this paper


Economic Policy | Economics | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


There has been considerable recent debate regarding proposed policies that would allow foster care administrators to discriminate on the basis of the sexual orientation of the foster parent. To date, however, we know very little about the level of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the foster care system. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical investigation to ask whether foster care agencies, the public and nonprofit firms that facilitate foster care placements, respond similarly to emails sent by fictitious same-sex and heterosexual couples who inquire about becoming foster parents. Our results suggest that while foster care agencies respond at somewhat similar rates to gay male couples, gay female couples and heterosexual couples, responses sent to gay males are of lower quality. Gay males receive much shorter responses that take longer to receive. Responses to gay male couples are also less likely to include key pieces of information about the process of becoming a foster parent, such as information about informational sessions or being given an application. We do not find any evidence of differential treatment towards same-sex female couples.



Additional Information

Working paper no. 224


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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