Free sterilisation


Jason Collins


July 31, 2011

From Dan Ariely:

Last year, the Danish government announced that sterilization, which had been free, would cost at least 7,000 kroner (~$1,300) for men and 13,000 kroner (~$2,500) for women as of January 1st, 2011. Following the announcement, doctors performing sterilizations found that their patient load suddenly surged. People were scrambling to get sterilized while it was still free.

Now, it could be that the people who were already planning on getting sterilized at some point in the future just made their appointments a bit sooner, and conveniently saved some money.  But I can also imagine that (much like our research on free tattoos) there were many people who did not really think much about sterilization before the price change, but were so averse to giving up such a good deal that it pushed them to take the offer and undergo a fairly serious procedure.

Traits that lead people to voluntarily cut their fertility should reduce in prevalence in the long-term, and this is an interesting (but small) acceleration.

For those that consider that people (and their capacity to create and invent) are the ultimate resource and that each person generates, on average, positive social welfare, this policy would have benefits in more than one dimension. An important question, however, is whether the average characteristics of those that undergo the now expensive sterilisation differ from those who underwent the procedure before. Is sterilisation in Denmark now the domain of the well-off?