As Britain prepares to go to the polls for the EU referendum, immigration is a key issue. Those worried by the adverse economic effects of an ageing population sometimes claim that immigration can offset these effects by increasing the proportion of working-age people. It is a claim challenged by a new study of long-term trends by Michael Murphy published in the journal Population Studies.
Couples’ fertility control is most often perceived as a rational decision-making process, thereby assuming that people – and women in particular – who want to prevent conception will rely on the most effective method available. Accordingly, it is argued that the introduction of hormonal methods in advanced economies was paralleled by a linear transition from irrational ineffective methods to rational effective ones.
In the United States, just under half (48.1%) of partnered women aged 25–44 using contraception rely on sterilization for fertility control. In our recent study, Gender, Class, and Contraception in Comparative Context: The Perplexing Links between Sterilization and Disadvantage (2016), Megan Sweeney and I show that levels of contraceptive sterilization are similarly high in Australia (39.6% of partnered women aged 25–44 using contraception), but they tend to be much lower and more variable across Europe. With the exception of Australia and Belgium, female sterilization is more common than male sterilization in all of the countries studied (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Romania, Russia, and the United States), despite the latter being simpler, more effective, less often regretted, more economical, and having lower rates of minor and major complications.