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The Market for Blood

Listed author(s):
  • Robert Slonim
  • Carmen Wang
  • Ellen Garbarino

Donating blood, "the gift of life," is among the noblest activities and it is performed worldwide nearly 100 million times annually. The economic perspective presented here shows how the gift of life, albeit noble and often motivated by altruism, is heavily influenced by standard economic forces including supply and demand, economies of scale, and moral hazard. These forces, shaped by technological advances, have driven the evolution of blood donation markets from thin one-to-one "marriage markets" in which each recipient needed a personal blood donor, to thick, impersonalized, diffuse markets. Today, imbalances between aggregate supply and demand are a major challenge in blood markets, including excess supply after disasters and insufficient supply at other times. These imbalances are not unexpected given that the blood market operates without market prices and with limited storage length (about six weeks) for whole blood. Yet shifting to a system of paying blood donors seems a practical impossibility given attitudes toward paying blood donors and concerns that a paid system could compromise blood safety. Nonetheless, we believe that an economic perspective offers promising directions to increase supply and improve the supply and demand balance even in the presence of volunteer supply and with the absence of market prices.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.28.2.177
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 28 (2014)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 177-196

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:2:p:177-96
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.2.177
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Alvin E. Roth, 2006. "Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets," NBER Working Papers 12702, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Garbarino, Ellen & Slonim, Robert & Wang, Carmen, 2013. "The multidimensional effects of a small gift: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(1), pages 83-86.
  3. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Social image concerns and prosocial behavior: Field evidence from a nonlinear incentive scheme," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 225-237, November.
  4. Victor Iajya & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis & Robert Slonim, 2012. "The Effects of Information, Social and Economic Incentives on Voluntary Undirected Blood Donations: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Argentina," NBER Working Papers 18630, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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