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McKenzie Research Finds Value in Orphanage Life

As the latest presenter in the Libraries’ speaker series, Richard McKenzie, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Management, presented his compelling research — inspired by his own childhood experiences — on orphans raised in children’s homes. His work suggests that children raised in orphanages outpace their peers in key measures of lifelong success.

McKenzie grew up in North Carolina at the Barium Springs Home for Children in the 1950s. His experiences led him to write The Home: A Memoir of Growing Up in an Orphanage, published in 1996. In the eight years since, he has surveyed more than 2,500 orphan alumni from 14 orphanages and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, they have outpaced by wide margins their age counterparts in the general population on almost all social and economic measures, including education, income and attitude toward life. McKenzie’s research has led him to conclude that the closing of many children’s homes throughout the United States , replacing them with foster care, was misguided. As he told a U.S. House subcommittee four years ago, “The nation needs more care options, with an old option — children’s homes — being one of them.”

He is also executive producer of a documentary film titled Homecoming: The Forgotten World of America’s Orphanages, from which he showed excerpts.  The film features aging alumni of four American orphanages who poignantly relate how their childhood experiences have affected their lives. The film was recently shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival to sell-out audiences and is currently being considered for national distribution.

McKenzie has written numerous books on economic policy, and his columns and general-interest articles have appeared in most of the country’s major national and regional newspapers. He was named one of the “Hottest 25 People in Orange County ” in 2002 for his course on the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation.

For more information on the Libraries’ speaker series, please contact Julie Sully (x44658 or jsully@uci.edu).


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