What determines whether a country has more or less restrictive policies regarding intercountry adoption? Despite the growing importance of intercountry adoption as a political issue, and as an explicitly human face of globalization, there is virtually no systematic empirical work on intercountry adoption. We introduce a measure of the restrictiveness of the adoption laws in Sub-Saharan African countries and test possible explanations for the variations in legal restrictions on intercountry adoption among these countries.
Factors that are commonly cited as explanations for the restrictiveness of intercountry adoption policies do not hold up very well in our assessment. Openness to adoption is not determined by the severity of the orphan crisis or the AIDS crisis within the sending country, nor are democratic countries more responsive to the needs of their orphans. Additionally, African signatories to the Hague Convention, which aimed to increase transparency and accountability in intercountry adoption, tend to be among the most restrictive. On the other hand, a stronger connection with the global economy is associated with greater openness to intercountry adoption. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for orphans and for intercountry adoption.