Rene Almeling

Professor of Sociology, Yale University

About Rene

Almeling's research is at the intersection of gender, medicine, and economics, with a focus on reproductive and genetic technologies. She has written an award-winning book on the market for egg and sperm donors in the United States, and her current projects include a national survey of Americans’ attitudes toward genetic risk (with Shana Gadarian), an examination of direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies, and a survey of women's experiences with in vitro fertilization.


The Business of Egg and Sperm Donation

In the News

Opinion: "Women Are Bombarded With Messages About Their Reproductive Health. Why Not Men?," Rene Almeling, The Washington Post, June 16, 2021.
Quoted by Gillian Wheatley and Sarah Galashan in "Paying Surrogates in Canada Could Present New Problems for Parents-To-Be, Experts Say," CBC News, April 24, 2018.
Quoted by Katie O'Reilly in "Egged on: The Commodified Altruism of the Assisted-Reproduction Industry," Bitch Media, June 28, 2016.
Opinion: "The CDC Risks Its Credibility with New Pregnancy Guidelines," Rene Almeling, Boston Globe, February 8, 2016.
Guest on Legal Broadcast Network, July 31, 2015.
Research discussed by Bess Connolly Martell, in "‘Patients-in-Waiting’: Even the Perceived Risk of Disease Prompts Intention to Act," Yale News, December 3, 2014.
Opinion: "Egg-Freezing a Better Deal for Companies Than for Women," Rene Almeling (with Joanna Radin and Sarah S. Richardson), CNN Opinion, October 20, 2014.
Research discussed by Register Staff, in "Yale Study Shows Patients Want Help with At-Home DNA Tests," The Register Citizen, November 7, 2013.
Research discussed by Don Troop, in "The Student Body, for Sale," Chronicle of Higher Education, February 18, 2013.
Research discussed by Ruth Costas (article in Portuguese), in "Beauty and Academic Qualifications Earn up to $50,000 in Controversial Egg Market," BBC Brasil, September 4, 2012.
Research discussed by Meredith Redick, in "Selling Sex... Cells: Navigating the Ethics of the Sex Cell Market," Yale Scientific, April 22, 2012.
Research discussed by "Get Your Free Sperm Here!," Freakonomics Blog, October 7, 2011.
Interviewed in "Baby Boom: What Happens When One Sperm Donor Has Dozens of Offspring?," NPR’s “Here and Now”, September 29, 2011.
Interviewed in Sperm Donors Think ‘Father,’ Egg Donors Don’t Think ‘Mother’ The Washington Post, September 28, 2011.
Research discussed by Anna North, in "Why Sperm Donors Say They’re Parents and Egg Donors Don’t," Jezebel, September 28, 2011.
Interviewed in "Secrets of the Sperm Bank," Salon, September 25, 2011.
Interviewed in "Rene Almeling’s ‘Sex Cells’ Explores Marketing of Reproductive Donation," The Huffington Post, September 20, 2011.


"Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm" (University of California Press, 2011).
Provides an inside look at how egg agencies and sperm banks do business. Shows how the gendered framing of paid donation, as either a job or a gift, not only influences the structure of the market for sex cells, but also profoundly affects the women and men whose genetic material is being purchased.
"Objectification, Standardization, and Commodification in Healthcare: A Conceptual Readjustment" (with Stefan Timmermans). Social Science and Medicine 69, no. 1 (2009): 21-27.
Provides a theoretical synthesis of emerging scholarship on the intended and unintended consequences of objectification, commodification, and standardization in healthcare. Outlines a research agenda for a more comprehensive assessment of how these processes manifest in clinical care.
"Fat in the Fire? Science, the News Media, and the 'Obesity Epidemic'" (with Abigail C. Saguy). Sociological Forum 23, no. 1 (2008): 53-83.
Examines the interconnected role of medical science and media reporting in how the obesity epidemic is framed as a social problem. Finds that news reports dramatize the issue more than scientific studies and are more likely to highlight individual blame for weight.
"Selling Genes, Selling Gender: Egg Agencies, Sperm Banks, and the Medical Market in Genetic Material" American Sociological Review 72, no. 3 (2007): 319-340.
Examines how egg agencies and sperm banks recruit, screen, and compensate women for eggs and men for sperm. Demonstrates that gendered cultural norms inspire more altruistic rhetoric in egg donation than sperm donation, producing a gendered market for sex cells in the United States.