Are you a pretty Asian girl who is good at math? Your eggs might be worth about a downpayment on a decent condo. Are you black, white, or Hispanic? Sorry, but the best egg donation centers can give you for your reproductive cells is enough to buy a sort of decent used compact car with about 75,000 miles on it. Also, the backseat smells like peanut butter and we can't figure out why.
The LA Times reports that there's a dramatic difference between what fertility clinics will offer to Asian women willing to part with their ova and what they're willing to offer women of other races. A non-Asian woman can typically get about $6,000 for a donation, but an Asian woman can get twice that or more. In some cases, couples have been willing to pay $25,000, $50,000, or even $100,000 for Asian eggs.
This price disparity exists for several reasons, according to the Times. First, Asian American couples, like Jewish couples, tend to have more advanced degrees than their non-Asian, non-Jewish counterparts. As a result, they're wealthier, but have also put off parenthood until later in life to make time for their degree accruing and money saving. And anyone who has watched more than one episode of a doctor-themed daytime talk show knows that the longer women wait to have children, the greater the likelihood that they'll have problems conceiving.
To further complicate matters, cultural taboos against adoption lead Asian couples to want to have a baby that looks like it is their own, driving infertile couples with the means to spend money on an expensive artificial insemination procedure to seek out donors that share a similar ethnic background.
Egg donation is a difficult and painful procedure, though, and the same factors that lead Asian couples to be in a better position to be able to afford expensive fertility procedures — higher incomes, higher levels of education, cultural taboos, and a lack of financial desperation — lead Asian women to hesitate when considering donating. Enormous demand combined with limited supply equals sky-high prices. And it certainly doesn't hurt that this is the Year of the Dragon, the luckiest year in the Chinese calendar. The Times suggests that Chinese parents are especially interested in having babies this year.
But even Asian couples willing to part with tens of thousands of dollars in the name of giving birth to a child that looks like their genetic offspring don't always find donors. In one case, a couple from Hong Kong offered $25,000 for an egg donation from an Asian woman. The ad was placed in a Chinese language newspaper but received no response.
Paying a woman more for her eggs based on her intelligence, looks, race, or other factors is perfectly legal, although a little uncomfortably Gattaca . Black would-be egg donors, for example, often sit on fertility clinics' donor list for years before being called to make a donation if they're called at all, and then aren't paid nearly as much as Asian or Jewish donors.