1st Edition

Eggonomics The Global Market in Human Eggs and the Donors Who Supply Them

By Diane M. Tober Copyright 2025
    360 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    360 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    What happens when people are reduced to products? By pulling back the clinical curtain on the multi-billion dollar per year global egg industry, that is the central question Eggonomics seeks to address. Tracing the emotional and physical journeys egg donors embark upon as suppliers of valuable commodities, this book reveals uncomfortable realities at the heart of the industry. Donors and the eggs they provide are absolutely essential to helping others create the families of their dreams. But not all clinics treat their donors as well as their paying patients, and many donors suffer as a result. Technological innovations allow the egg donation industry to expand, fueling the private equity incursion into fertility medicine, turning once-private clinics into highly profitable, multinational conglomerates. Drawing upon international anthropological fieldwork, Eggonomics reveals the clinical spaces where egg donor’s bodies are tested, prodded, and poked for ever-increasing sums of profit, eugenic forces drive donor selection, and the unrelenting pressures of global capitalism threaten medicine’s prime directive of ‘do no harm.’ Timely, meticulously researched, and written with surgical precision, Eggonomics is a crucial read for researchers, medical professionals, policymakers, and anyone considering becoming or using an egg donor.



    List of terms and abbreviations


    Introduction:        Golden Eggs

    Chapter 1:            Frozen Futures

    Chapter 2:            The Perfect Donor

    Chapter 3:            Egg Machines

    Chapter 4:            Sunny Side Up

    Chapter 5:            Passports and Cryotanks

    Chapter 6:            Poached

    Chapter 7:            Cracked

    Chapter 8:            Egg Babies and Bio-Moms

    Conclusion:         Just Eggs                                                        



    Diane Tober is Associate Professor at The University of Alabama, Department of Anthropology, and the Institute for Social Science Research. She is also the author of Romancing the Sperm: Shifting Biopolitics and the Making of Modern Families.

    “Eggonomics will be foundational to all future accounts of this increasingly common aspect of stratified reproduction." - Rayna Rapp, author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America

    "Dr. Tober’s eye-opening expose on the treatment of egg donors is a much-needed challenge to the hearts-and-flowers cultural narrative that relies on exploitative, harmful practices to fuel the ready supply of eggs to desperate infertile recipients. This is a shocking, critical must-read for anyone contemplating selling her eggs." - Liz Scheier, author of Never Simple: A Memoir

    “An extraordinarily gripping and important study, Eggonomics […] gives voice to the intimate and often heartbreaking stories of women who donate their eggs, thereby offering new insights into reproductive justice, racial inequalities and the politics of health in contemporary assisted reproduction. A captivating and often stunning read, this book is an immensely valuable contribution to feminist writing on reproduction politics and the fertility industry–particularly so in the post-Dobbs era.” - Lucy van de Wiel, Lecturer in Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London, author of Freezing Fertility: Oocyte Cryopreservation and the Gender Politics of Aging

    “As America and countries around the world contemplate free markets in human eggs--and other states contemplate declaring frozen embryos people--Eggonomics is a necessary road map for the future where every body has a price." - Scott Carney, investigative journalist, and author of The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers

    “An essential read for anybody interested in the contemporary biopolitics of reproduction and gender, and in the political economy of reproductive innovation." -  Catherine Waldby, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Author of The Oocyte Economy: The Changing Meaning of Human Eggs

    “Eggonomics highlights the experiences of egg donors, the desired race practices in the industry, racial inequities in access to and compensation, and the market driven practices in assisted reproductive technology. It exposes the international variations in egg donation practices; and the need for regulation and having standards of practice for donors and intended parents.” - Diana Namumbejja Abwoye FNP-BC, Board Chair Our Bodies Ourselves and member of the international advisory committee of Surrogacy360

    “Thank goodness for Diane Tober’s thorough, brilliant, and eminently readable ethnography of egg donors. Her research on the medical, physical, and social impacts of egg donation elaborates the experiences of the donors who essentially bank-roll the multi-billion dollar IVF industry. This fascinating read offers a long overdue understanding of the impact of IVF.  Tober’s book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand contemporary kinship and family formations, as well as the disgraceful ways that young women are treated by the industry.” - S. Lochlain Jain, Visiting Chair of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’ College London, and a Research Affiliate at VIAD, University of Johannesburg, author of Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us