Amid the woes of a lingering recession and a fiscal recovery imperiled by Congressional fumbles, more and more hard-hit Americans pressured by rent, car payments, and tuition are turning to one of the most reliable financial assets available: their own body.
Since the beginning of 2011, analysts and health officials have reported a steady increase in the number of Americans soliciting buyers of human hair, breast milk, eggs, and even kidneys. According to Nicholas Colas, chief marketing strategist at ConvergEx, queries about the sale of bodily resources have quickly ascended to the top of Google’s autofill results.
“The fact that people even explore it indicates that there are still a lot of people worried about their financial outlook,” he explained. “This is very much unlike every other recovery that we’ve had. It’s going to be a slow-grinding, very frustrating recovery.”
One seller is 35-year-old April Hare, who recently decided to auction off her 18-inch locks at the online marketplace BuyAndSellHair in a last-ditch effort to avoid eviction. After posting two pictures and an opening bid of $1,000, she began to receive responses from all over the nation within hours.
“I was just trying to find ways to make money, and I remembered Jo from ‘Little Women,’ and she sold her hair,”she said, speaking to Bloomberg. “I’ve always had lots of hair, but this is the first time I’ve actually had the idea to sell it because I’m in a really tight jam right now.”
Similarly, fertility center around the country are experiencing a surge in prospective egg donors. Ali Williams, marketing assistant supervisor at Shady Grove Fertility Center, estimates that the company will receive applications from 13,000 women attempting to sell their eggs – a 13 percent increase from last year. The coveted compensation currently ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 per donation cycle.
The trend can also be observed on the black market, where organs like kidneys and livers are selling for tens of thousands of dollars. According to University of Chicago economist Gary Becker, the rates would most likely persist if legal donations were accompanied by monetary incentives. Still, experts believe that few cash-strapped Americans would actually go through with such invasive procedure, and that the emerging Google trend is the result of desperate individuals entertaining desperate measures.
“If you’ve been unemployed for years, if you’re on food stamps and you’ve had trouble getting by, I can totally see you being very economically desperate,” Colas said. “I don’t think a lot of people sell their kidneys. I do think a lot of people in desperation do that search to say, ‘If worse comes to worst what could I do?’”