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Economic LivesHow Culture Shapes the Economy$
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Viviana A. Zelizer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139364

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139364.001.0001

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From Baby Farms to Baby M

From Baby Farms to Baby M

Chapter:
(p.61) 3 From Baby Farms to Baby M
Source:
Economic Lives
Author(s):

Viviana A. Zelizer

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691139364.003.0004

This chapter considers the impact of children's changing economic and sentimental value on turn-of-the-twentieth-century baby markets, including profound transformations in the sale and exchange value of “priceless” children in foster care and adoption. Why is it that today's infertile parents eagerly offer thousands of dollars to obtain a baby, but in the late nineteenth century unwanted babies found no buyers? The chapter traces the late-twentieth-century emergence of a controversial surrogacy market. It argues that the socially and morally problematic nature of the surrogacy baby market is not primarily that sacred items are “placed in a contract and sealed by money,” nor even that surrogacy is rigged against poor women. More significantly, surrogacy unequivocally reveals our discriminatory valuation of children. Babies are made on “special order” because children already available on the adoption market are not “good” enough—too old, too sick, or of the wrong skin color. In this respect, surrogacy is only a technical innovation. In fact, it is just the latest stage of a very special adoption market that began in the 1920s.

Keywords:   baby selling, surrogacy market, baby markets, adoption market, children, valuation

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