Doctoral Dissertation Research: Social Norms and Industry Practices in Gamete Donation

  • Johnson, David R. (PI)
  • Johnson, Katherine M. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details



David R. Johnson

Katherine M. Johnson

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Infertility and reproductive technologies have increasingly entered public consciousness, but sociologists have not studied the fertility industry--an industry central to many ethical debates. This research examines organizations in the industry that provide gamete donation. These donations have inherently transgressive possibilities in that they collide with cultural norms about family creation and involve manipulating minute aspects of human reproduction with far-reaching social implications. The research engages ethical issues, but draws on a sociological perspective to address social institutions and inequality. The research poses three central questions: 1) How do organizations in the fertility industry help to create, delineate, and define families, 2) How do gender norms manifest in procedures for sperm and egg donors?, and 3) Does an organization's socioeconomic context impact donor procedures? The research design involves primary data collection via content analysis of websites for fertility clinics, egg donor agencies and commercial sperm banks in the U.S. These represent three main sectors of the industry that provide gamete donation services. Websites are a medium that conveys information to potential clients about services, but they also express cultural norms through explanations of these services. The investigator will also code the contents of donor applications to collect demographics on the donor and the socio-economic context of the organization.

Broader Impacts. The study seeks to contribute to sociological knowledge on human reproduction, using gamete donation to highlight and examine cultural assumptions and expectations about new reproduction technologies. More broadly, it seeks to bolster empirical grounding for ethical debates by improving our understanding of the deployment of reproductive technology.

Effective start/end date9/15/098/31/10


  • National Science Foundation: $2,895.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.