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October 2003Vol. 4, No. 8U.S. Census Counts Adopted Children for the First Time

The Census Bureau took its first-ever look at adopted children in a report released in August. Adopted Children and Stepchildren ( presents information on the characteristics of 2.1 million adopted children and 4.4 million stepchildren, as estimated from the Census 2000 sample that collected data from approximately 1 out of every 6 households.

Some highlights of findings include:

  • In 2000, 1.6 million adopted children under the age of 18 were living in U.S. households. This number represents 2.5 percent of all under-18 children of householders. (The term "householder" refers to the person in whose name the housing unit is owned, being bought, or rented.)
  • 87 percent of these adopted children were born in the United States.
  • Of the 258,000 adopted children who were foreign-born, nearly half (48 percent) were born in Asia, about one-third (33 percent) in Latin America, and about one-sixth (16 percent) in Europe. More of these children came from Korea (57,000, or 22 percent) than any other single country.
  • 76 percent of householders with an adopted child list their race as white; 15 percent list African-American; Asians, other races, and people who list two or more races make up the difference. 9 percent are Hispanic (of any race).
  • 17 percent of adopted children under age 18 were of a different race than the family householder.
  • Adoptive families are evenly distributed across all regions of the United States.
  • Adoptive households are better off economically than those of biological children.
  • A higher proportion of adopted children under age 18 had at least one disability than biological and stepchildren under 18.

Census 2000 represents the largest, most complete data source on characteristics of adopted children, their families, and households. However, because children were identified only by how they are related to the householder, this report cannot provide a comprehensive count of all adopted children. For example, if a married couple lived in a household of one of their parents, their children would be reported as "grandchildren of the householder" whether or not they were adopted.

Related Item

For information about the Federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which tracks U.S. adoptions from foster care, read "Efforts to Improve State Reporting on Foster Care and Adoption Are Paying Off" in the May/June 2001 issue of Children's Bureau Express ( The most recent AFCARS report (#8) can be found on the Children's Bureau website at