organ donation

Report: Racial Disparities Persist in Organ Donation in NJ

A New Jersey Hospital Association analysis of organ donation trends in New Jersey released today shows some progress in closing the racial gap in organ donations, but more donations are needed to avoid a growing waiting list of individuals in need of life-saving transplants.

The analysis also shows that organ donations, which dropped significantly in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, rebounded last year to near pre-pandemic levels.

These findings, and more, are covered in the bulletin The Challenge of Organ Donation: Disparity by Race/Ethnicity in New Jersey from NJHA’s Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation.

Organ donations have increased 323% in New Jersey from 1988 to 2021. In 2021, 906 organs (kidneys, livers, hearts, pancreases and lungs) were donated in New Jersey, although 3,817 New Jersey residents remain on the waiting list for an organ transplant. In absolute numbers, both organ donations and organ transplants have increased over this time period for all racial and ethnic groups. However, a deeper dive into the data reveals some persistent disparities.

Key findings from NJHA’s report include:

  • Organ donations in New Jersey dropped from 919 in 2019 to 791 in 2020 (the first year of the pandemic), but bounced back to 906 donations in 2021.
  • While White donors still account for the majority of organ donations in New Jersey, the proportion of donations from Hispanic and Asian individuals is increasing. Donations from Whites accounted for 77.9% of all donations in 1988, falling to 60.5% in 2021.

Meanwhile, donations from Hispanics grew from 12.2% in 1988 to 19.4% in 2021; and donations from Asians increased from 1 percent in 1988 to 6% in 2021.

  • Organ donations from Black individuals initially climbed from 12.2% in 1988 to a high of 19.4% in 2008 before falling to 11.2% in 2021.
  • Whites received the highest number of organ transplants, followed by Blacks and Hispanics, but the racial and ethnic gap is closing. The percentage of transplants among Whites declined from 74.5% in 1988 to 47.9% in 2021. In the same time period, transplants among Blacks increased from 18.2% to 23.2%; transplants among Hispanics increased from 6.1% to 19.1%; and transplants among Asians increased from 1% to 9.6%.
  • For Whites and Hispanics, the number of organs donated exceeds the number of transplants received. The reverse is true among Blacks, where the number of donations fell below the number of transplants.
  • The trends in transplantation may reflect factors such as changing demographics in New Jersey and health status that impacts transplant eligibility. Health status may be influenced by a number of factors including social determinants of health.

“Like other aspects of healthcare, organ donation is impacted by structural biases that can seed distrust in the system,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “Our data analysis shows that New Jersey is making strides to increase equity in the organ donation and transplant system, but more work remains. A gap remains in Black New Jerseyans participating in organ donation. Healthcare providers, hospitals and other stakeholders must continue to engage the Black community to increase awareness and mutual understanding so more people can participate in this life-saving gift.”

NJHA will work with the NJ Sharing Network and the Gift of Life program – the two organ procurement organizations serving New Jersey – to explore action steps to increase organ donations across all populations.

To read the full bulletin and other CHART data reports, visit

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