Recession Indicator: Paid Blood (Plasma) Donations Rising

When I was in high school, an enterprising friend regularly gave blood to earn some extra cash (he also had a part-time job, so this wasn’t his only strategy). The economy in 1974 was in a bad recession, but even so, my buddy remarked that the paid blood donors were skewed heavily towards chronic alcoholics (the popular image of the homeless back then, although his stereotype may have been accurate).

I remarked earlier that rising levels of paid blood donations would be a proxy for economic stress. Although this story (hat tip reader Warren) is only one sighting, it seems to confirm the thesis.

From the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel:

Like most families, James Jubinville and his wife are pinching pennies in these tough economic times. A road construction worker and father of two, Jubinville is laid off each winter but is especially feeling strapped this year. To help make ends meet, he is trying to refinance his mortgage.

He also is earning cash by giving plasma…

Jubinville earns at least $50 a week giving plasma, driving twice a week from Huntington. People can donate every 48 hours but only twice per week at the area’s only for-profit plasma donation center. Donors must be at least 18 years old. They are given $20 for the first donation of the week and usually $30 for the second one.

“Sometimes they run specials,” he said. For example, last month, each second donation of the week went up by $10, so by Week 3, Jubinville made $50 for the second donation, or $70 for the week…

The exact numbers of donors is not released by the company, Petty said, but on Tuesday, all 66 recliners at the Coldwater Road site were full….

Jubinville has been giving plasma at BioLife year-round for 1 1/2 years and said, “I used to be able to walk in and maybe have to wait a little while, and now I have to make an appointment. It’s extremely busy.”

Plasma is the liquid, yellow portion of blood. It makes up nearly 60 percent of blood and consists of 90 percent water and 10 percent protein molecules and other factors needed for blood clotting, for the immune system and for other processes…..

[P]lasma collected by for-profit centers is used for research and some medical therapies, whereas, “Here at the Red Cross plasma goes directly to hospital patients in need, most often to burn victims, shock victims or patients admitted for a trauma,”…

[E]very plasma collection is tested for a host of diseases, then frozen and kept in regional distribution centers for at least six months to ensure it is safe before usage…

For people like Jubinville, the money helps buy groceries and salt for the water softener, he said, noting an added bonus is, “It’s not taxed. It’s considered a donation.”

The article also notes that only 5% of eligible donors give blood, suggesting that the US is not at risk of a recession-induced donor oversupply.

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  1. The Prowler

    The economy in 1974 was in a bad recession, but even so, my buddy remarked that the paid blood donors were skewed heavily towards chronic alcoholics (the popular image of the homeless back then, although his stereotype may have been accurate).

    It was accurate then and it’s accurate now. Heavy drinkers are the core of the indigent population. The drunks and the stoners (which are not mutually exclusive groups) far outnumber the mentally ill.

  2. Doc at the Radar Station

    Where I live a plasma center is in the same strip mall as the local unemployment office. The donors are often hanging out in front smoking cigarettes, but I never notice any indigents there. Mostly just unemployed people and a LOT of college students go there for extra cash.

  3. Anonymous

    FDA rules say that blood used for transfusions cannot be “bought.” Studies show that volunteer donors provide a safer blood supply.

    ufficient supplies of safe blood can only be assured by regular donations from voluntary unpaid donors. The 2006 data reveal some improvements in such donations worldwide, but many developing and transitional countries still rely heavily on relatively unsafe family/replacement donors and paid donors.

    Fifty-one countries reported an increase in blood donation by voluntary unpaid donors. In 27 countries the level remained the same.
    In 2004, 51 countries had reached the WHO-recommended goal of collecting 100% of their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors. Thailand, Turkey and Uganda achieved this in 2006.
    Particularly striking is the increase from 25% in 2002 to 40% in 2006 in the proportion of donations collected from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors in developing and transitional countries.
    92% of donations in developed countries are from voluntary unpaid donors as compared to 77% in developing and transitional countries.
    More countries are moving towards voluntary blood donation and showing a decrease in dependence on relatively unsafe family and paid blood donors. In 2002, 63 countries were collecting more than 75% of their blood supplies from family and paid blood donors. This number had fallen to 46 countries by 2004 and again to 38 countries in 2006.
    More than 1 million whole blood units were still collected from paid blood donors in 2006

  4. Anonymous

    Don’t forget:

    College students are willing to do almost anything for cash. Some will work a typical nine to five, some will take odd jobs in Williamsburg warehouses and others will be continuous subjects for medical and pharmaceutical studies. Other female college students weigh their options with egg donation. Media outlets, from newspapers to Facebook, present multiple advertisements for egg donation; most ads promise up to $10,000 for viable eggs. This large sum is extremely striking to college women with empty pockets, monthly bills and mounting student loans.

  5. Anonymous

    Sad story. But believable. When I was in Kentucky at Christmas, the Courier-Journal (Louisville newspaper) carried a story saying that in the poor counties in the SE corner of the state, people who were convicted of minor crimes and had a choice between paying a fine and going to jail were opting for jail. This conserved cash, and got them a few free meals…

  6. tangurena

    >These people are insane!! They will have anemia within a few months, if they give twice a week; that should be illegal!

    It doesn't quite work that way.

    When selling plasma, blood is extracted, then centrifuged to separate the red blood cells from the plasma. The red blood cells are returned to your body (they're cold cold cold). This is then repeated. If the RBC can't be returned, then it counts as a "whole blood donation" and you can't return for several weeks.

    I did this when I was a college student back in the 70s. It paid for pizza and occasionally enough for beer. There are very few of these facilities in Denver (where I live) and the distance makes it not worth the trip.

    I have large "tracks" on my arms where the plumbing went, and it always amuses the folks at the blood donation centers when I cover my eyes and look away when they're stabing me with Stabby McNeedles: "dude, with tracks like that, how can you be scared of needles?"

  7. John

    As an aside this guy went to the turbo timmy school of taxation. Selling blood produces taxable income.

  8. bill

    I sold plasma once in college. Once was enough for me. Glad there are people who will do this. Let me know when the prices drop. Then we’ll know it’s not just an anecdote.

  9. fresno dan

    Thats nothing. I donated a lung, a kidney, my left heart, a testicle, and half a liver. I offered my brains, noting that they had never been used, but the clerk said they didn’t meet the size limit.

  10. Anonymous

    Recession Indicator: Paid Blood (Plasma) Donations Rising – Feb 7, 2009

    There should be lots of good Organs about at a cheap price for the Well Connected to use to replace their own Organs from all that tax cut high living. Go good with all that cheap blood.

    Thank Goodness we have had lots of Government Subsidized Research into Organ Transplants so that the Well Connected can continue longer in their lives and keep some of us employed.

    Hey, where’s my trickle down heart transplant?

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