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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Study Reveals Race, Gender Disparities in Medical Crowdfunding Campaigns

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

Medical crowdfunding (MCF) is a growing platform for patients to raise money to cover healthcare debts from expensive treatments, comprising about one-third of crowdfunding campaigns. But findings from a recent study suggest that some patient demographics still are being left out in the cold.

Researchers analyzed characteristics of 3,396 MCF campaigns on GoFundMe, focusing on the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Fifty-two percent of beneficiaries were male, and 98% were non-Black. In the United States, only 39% of beneficiaries were female, and 5.3% were Black. Beneficiaries of color also were underrespresented in Canada (1.9%).

Female and Black beneficiaries also were less successful in raising funds. Men raised 5.9% more than women, while Black participants raised 11.5% less than their white counterparts.

These disparities show that crowdfunding might not be the equalizer it was once thought. “Race and gender disparities reflect the pillars on which MCF is dependent: access to technology, literacy, social capital, and perception. Those with socioeconomic disadvantage are more likely to experience a digital divide that limits online participation because of a lack of access to information technology (eg, computer and internet),” the authors noted. "Furthermore, broader, more affluent social communities and larger social media networks are well-recognized factors associated with crowdfunding success. Finally, conscious and unconscious systemic racial and gender biases likely obscure perception of worthiness in MCF campaigns. Our findings suggest that MCF facilitates the distribution of resources according to biases and preferences and thus, contribute to widening social inequities.”

The findings also revealed stark differences between the United States, Canada, and the U.K. in terms of medical care. Eighty percent of U.S. MCF campaigns were for routine healthcare – and these campaigns were the least successful. Routine care comprised 22% and 26% of campaigns in Canada and the U.K., respectively. Half of campaigns in Canada and the U.K. were for experimental or approved but inaccessible therapies, highlighting gaps in each country’s public healthcare system. These gaps also include higher out-of-pocket medication costs and dissatisfaction with treatment wait times, according to the authors.

Other findings include:

  • Only 33% of MCF campaigns reached their funding goals;
  • Campaigns in the United States raised more funds than Canadian and U.K. campaigns;
  • Cancer was the most common (55%) health issue, followed by neurological disorders (15%) and trauma (10%).