Purpose: To determine how sociodemographic characteristics influence both access to transplantation and organ donation.
Methods: For all transplants in the United States from 1996 to 2001, donor-recipient pairs were categorized as white-white, white-black, black-white, or black-black. The difference in the percentage of white-black versus black-white pairs was calculated as a measure of the net transfer of organs from one racial group to another. A similar approach was used to examine the net transfer of organs across other sociodemographic categories.
Results: Among cadaveric renal transplants, 66% of donor-recipient pairs were white-white, 23% were white-black, 5% were black-white, and 6% were black-black. Thus, there was an 18% net transfer of organs from white donors to black recipients (23% minus 5%). Among living donor transplants involving spouses, there was a 36% net transfer from wives to husbands. Among all cadaveric transplants, there was a 36% to 68% net transfer from younger donors to older recipients. Among cadaveric nonrenal transplants, there was a 7% to 18% net transfer from lower-income donors to higher-income recipients.
Conclusion: The sociodemographic characteristics of persons who donate organs and those who benefit from organ transplantation differ markedly. Efforts to improve access and increase donation should address these differences.