Campus & Community

Spar takes on boom in baby biz

2 min read

Harvard Business School professor delves into ‘commerce of conception’

The field of reproductive technologies has become a fast- growing and profitable economic sector. “Parents choose for different traits, clinics woo clients, and specialized providers earn millions of dollars,” points out Harvard Business School Professor Debora Spar in her book, “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.”

Some parents pay up to $100,000 to produce what others make for free. Spar doesn’t judge if this market is either good or evil, but with her research hopes to start a public debate about the need to establish governmental oversight.

The baby industry, Spar notes, expanded beneath the radar of most business analysts. This is, she says, partly because clients generally recoil from the notion that their families are – at least in part – the result of “market activity.” In addition, there has been little call for governmental regulation of this new and unique business.

The development of the baby industry took off, says Spar, in 1978 with the birth of Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby. Today desperate couples go through round after round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) at an average cost of $12,400 per try, even though the success rate hovers around 27 percent and drops as low as 9 percent if the woman is over 40. Those who do give up can turn to adoption, along with about 120,000 other U.S. families each year, paying out up to $35,000 per child.