ON-Lion Letter

A new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis demonstrates that adults who grew up in orphanages overwhelmingly believe they are living the American Dream. Written by economist Richard B. McKenzie — author of The Home, and himself the child of an orphanage — the study raises serious questions about public policies aimed at eliminating the stability and consistency of an institutional upbringing. 

The critics of modern orphanages — in contrast to 19th-century Dickensian workhouses — range from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to novelist J. K. Rowling, and their prescriptions include eliminating such institutions in the United States and discouraging Western support for them in developing countries. There are surely institutions that provide poor care, inadequate education and harmful environments for their charges, but most of the orphanage alumni I have surveyed avow that the list of hardships they have overcome did not include their orphanage experiences. Indeed, a substantial majority express deeply felt affection for their stays in their “homes” and claim their orphanage experiences contributed to their success. 

Building on Professor McKenzie’s previous research and analysis, the study showed that more than 88 percent of the orphans surveyed considered themselves middle class adults, and 80 percent believed their orphanage experience was positive

Professor Emeritus of Enterprise and Society at the University of California – Irvine, Dr. McKenzie received funding for his work on orphanages from grants to his institution from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

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