Permanency and the Educational and Economic Attainment of Former Foster Children in Early Adulthood

Sarah A. Font, Lawrence M. Berger, Maria Cancian, Jennifer L. Noyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Foster children are at disproportionate risk of adverse outcomes throughout the life course. Public policy prioritizes permanency (exiting foster care through reunification with birth parents, adoption, or legal guardianship) to promote foster youths’ healthy development and well-being, but little empirical evidence indicates that permanency, including its most preferred form—reunification—promotes positive outcomes. Using multi-system, statewide longitudinal administrative data, we employed logistic and mixed-effects regression to examine educational attainment and earnings among former foster youth in early adulthood. We found that youth who aged out of care had significantly higher odds of graduating high school and enrolling in college than did reunified youth and youth who exited to guardianship, and they had similar odds as adopted youth. Earnings were similar across groups. Among aged-out (but not reunified) youth, odds of high school graduation and average earnings were higher for youth who spent more time in foster care prior to age 18. Overall, results suggest that permanency alone is insufficient to promote foster youths’ educational and economic attainment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-743
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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