Several research assistants and I spent last summer looking at websites from virtually every US fertility clinic. One of the things we recorded was the race of any babies pictured on the first page of the clinics’ websites. I have no background in critical legal studies or critical race theory, so I am probably not the best person to do this study, but I was looking at other advertising issues on the website, and I had read that minorities use assisted reproductive technologies at a much lower level than Whites, despite experiencing higher rates of infertility and even when states mandate fertility insurance (which should control for wealth effects).
I was surprised by the results, which are included here. It turns out that the picture of fertility care in America on websites is quite literally a picture of White doctors helping patients have White babies.
Of the 294 websites that presented images of babies, 62.93% (n=185) presented pictures of only White babies, while 1.02% (n=3) presented images of only Black babies; 0.34% (n=1) had an image of only a Latino baby; and 1.02% (n=3) had a picture of only an Asian baby. If we include instances where White babies appear along with babies of other races, 97.28% (n=286) of websites with pictures of babies have pictures of White babies.
The races of fertility doctors are similarly lopsided. We believed we could determine the races of 1124 reproductive endocrinologists on clinics’ websites. Of those physicians, 79.89% were White, 2.14% were Black, 4.27% were Latino, 8.27% were Asian, and 5.43% were of other races.
What should make of these disparities? I’m not sure, and I am anxious for your thoughts. But, it could help explain why minorities seek fertility care at a lower rate than White patients. If having a doctor that is the same race is important to people or if being represented in advertising for a service is significant, these findings might shed light on why certain races are less likely to go to a fertility doctor.