Less than 1 percent of blood donations are from African Americans or Hispanics.
Though compatibility is not based on race, genetically similar blood is best for patients who need repeated or large volumes of blood transfusions, or those who have produced red blood cell antibodies for various diseases and conditions like sickle cell, heart disease and kidney disease.
Blood that closely matches a patient’s ethnicity is less likely to be rejected by the patient and provides fewer risks for complications. For example, some African American donors have different combinations of antigens in their blood like U-negative or Duffy-negative. Because these antigens are rarely found in other ethnic groups, these patients often depend on African American blood donations.
Type O blood is the most common and most frequently used blood type. Type O negative blood is the universal donor, since almost anyone can accept it for a transfusion, regardless of their blood type. This type is the first to run out during blood shortages.
Forty-five percent of people in the U.S. have type O blood. This percentage is higher among Hispanics (57 percent) and African Americans (51 percent.)
[Download a .pdf of the Ethnicity and the Blood Supply handout.]