Trading-Off Reproductive Technology and Adoption: Does Subsidizing in Vitro Fertilization Decrease Adoption Rates and Should it Matter?

Daniel L. Chen, Duke Law School
I. Glenn Cohen

Available in the Faculty Scholarship collection.


For those facing infertility, using assisted reproductive technology to have genetically related children is a very expensive proposition. In particular, to produce a live birth through in vitro fertilization (IVF) will cost an individual (on average) between $66,667 and $114,286 in the U.S. If forced to pay these prices out of pocket, many would be unable to afford this technology. Given this reality, a number of states have attempted to improve access to reproductive technology through state-level insurance mandates that cover IVF. Several scholars, however, have worried that increasing access in this way will cause a diminution in adoptions and have argued against enactment of state mandates for that reason.

In this paper, which was selected for presentation at the 2010 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum, we push against that conclusion on two fronts.

First, we interrogate the normative premises of the argument and expose its contestable implicit assumptions about how the state should balance the interests of existing children waiting for adoption and those seeking access to reproductive technology in order to have genetically related children.

Second, we investigate the unexamined empirical question behind the conclusion: does state subsidization of reproductive technologies through insurance mandates actually reduce adoption; that is, is there a trade-off between helping individuals conceive and helping children waiting to be adopted? We call the claim that there is such an effect the “substitution theory.” Using the differential timing of introduction of state-level insurance mandates relating to IVF in some states and differences in the forms these mandates take, we employ several different econometric techniques (differences-in-differences, ordinary least squares, two-stage least squares) to examine the effect of these mandates on IVF utilization and adoption. Contrary to the assumption of the substitution theory, we find no strong evidence that state support of IVF through these mandates crowds out either domestic or international adoption.

Appendix A linked below, re-analyses our results using the insurance mandate categorization of other studies in the literature.