Do Foster Care Agencies Discriminate Against Gay Couples? Evidence from a Correspondence Study

Mattie Mackenzie-Liu, David J. Schwegman, Leonard M. Lopoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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 e-mails 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 essential information about the process of becoming a foster parent, such as details about informational sessions or being given an application. We do not find any evidence of differential treatment towards same-sex female couples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1140-1170
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Policy Analysis and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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