Men Had Half a Million More Vasectomies During the Recession

New research finds a correlation between the down economy and higher numbers of the surgery.

As money dwindles in a society, so too do the babies. Babies, notoriously expensive bundles of joy that they are, are a big investment, one that a lot of people can little afford to make during a recession. And so the storks, with fewer babies to deliver, also fall on hard times, and so on.

A study published in September found that half a million fewer babies were born thanks to the Great Recession, and now new research points to one factor that could have contributed to the decrease—about half a million more men had vasectomies between 2007 and 2009.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College presented their study at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting. They analyzed data from nearly 9,000 men who responded to the National Survey for Family Growth between 2006 and 2010 and found that before the recession, 3.9 percent of men had had a vasectomy; after the recession it was up to 4.4 percent. That comes out to 150,000 to 180,000 extra vasectomies per year.

After the recession, men were also less likely to be employed or have medical insurance, and made less money on average. There was no change in the number of surveyed men who reported wanting to have more children, but they tended to want fewer children overall post-recession. This aligns with the findings from the September study, in which, as Olga Khazan reported at the time, recessions were correlated with women having fewer babies over the course of their entire lives—not just during the years of the recession itself.

Vasectomies are reversible procedures—nothing’s to stop some of these men from changing their minds and later hopping on board the Dad Train. But undoing one means another surgery (with varying success rates), so choosing to get the procedure in the first place makes a much stronger statement about how you want the future to look than just holding off and using birth control until money’s a little less tight.