Poor economy or not, families want children—and with bank credit tight, a specialized industry is reaping the benefits. "Fertility finance" firms provide loans for in vitro fertilizations, which regularly cost more than $20,000. The business looks set to soar this year, insiders tell the Wall Street Journal. It's "pretty much a recession-proof business, since the biological clock doesn't stop," says an executive with a fertility-clinic operator.
Last year, firms say, they made some $4 billion in loans, an increase over 2010. But some doctors fear the loans take unfair advantage of the desire to have kids; such worries have prompted some physicians not to offer the services. "These patients are very vulnerable to predatory lending," says one. There's also concern over a conflict of interest if doctors invest in companies they recommend to patients. The unsecured loans can carry interest rates of up to 22%, compared to the average 17% charged by credit cards.