From Guest Blogger Ellen Glazer.
Wow What Numbers
I’m not usually a numbers person, but I just met some numbers that took my breath away. I’m referring to the DSR statistics and the numbers that jump out on the website’s interactive world map. “Wow” was all I could say to myself as I sat mesmerized. “Wow!”
So what was it that took my breath away? First, there were the dizzying numbers—the fact that in 14 years, the DSR has grown from two people in Colorado—Wendy and Ryan—to 43,000 worldwide. These are staggering numbers, but what truly “wowed me” was clicking on the interactive map and glimpsing things worldwide. Not only has the DSR touched and connected lives throughout the US, Canada and Western Europe, but it has members where we might not have anticipated seeing them. Five in Kenya. Three in Nigeria. Eight in Pakistan. Five in Iceland. Sixteen in Turkey.
What hit home “playing” with the interactive map, is that we are a community. The DSR set out to connect genetic relatives but in the process, it has accomplished much more: it has launched a worldwide community of people whose lives have been touched by donor conception. People are not only finding their families—their genetic kin—but they are also finding an “extended family” made up of those who share common experiences, concerns, hopes and dreams.
Having torn myself away from the interactive map long enough to write this, I want to say something about some of the other statistics that caught my eye. I was fascinated to read the numbers on matching and to try to comprehend the wide range of experiences people have with matches. The average wait to match is 199 days, yet nearly 80% who match, match instantly. If I am understanding those numbers, it means that many people who eventually do match, wait longer than a year. And there is the statistic that 69.5% of posts yield matches. I’m assuming and hoping that that number will increase as time passes and people wait longer.
Then there were some interesting statistics about who we are as a community. At this point in time, single mothers make up the largest constituency of parent families, followed by LGBT, with only a minority being heterosexual couples. I guess this comes as no surprise—it is the single moms who pioneered efforts to identify sperm and to remove some of the secrecy that long surrounded sperm donation. And it is not surprising that the next largest group are LGBT families, since they, too, are more likely to be open about having used donor conception. My hope is that as these numbers will even out a bit now that increasing numbers of heterosexual couples are turning to egg donation to build their families.
I was also interested to see nearly matching pie charts on religion: donors and recipients seem to share faiths—and non-faiths. In both groups, the largest constituency was Catholic, followed by people who identified themselves as “Christian,” then Protestants and Jews. Numbers varied a bit but were remarkably in line for the most represented religions and the least. Knowing how important shared heritage is to many recipient families, it is comforting to see that there are a wide range of religious perspectives represented in both groups. And so much room for personal interpretations. Surely there are people who identify themselves as Jewish, Buddhist and Agnostic or Unitarian, Buddhist and Atheist.
So the numbers say a lot about who we are and how we are growing. They raise intriguing questions about where we are headed now that there have been well over 11,000 matches. They also reflect challenges: how is it that the vast majority of members found the DSR on line or through TV and magazines and not through their physicians, sperm and egg banks or infertility support groups? Knowing Wendy Kramer and the creativity, energy and commitment she brings to this, there is no doubt that next year’s statistics will be all the more eye popping. I’ll plan to set some time aside to read and reflect and Wow upon those numbers.