According to a new, currently unpublished study, there just aren't enough educated men out there for comparable women to make babies with. That's why successful women are turning to elective egg freezing, a Yale researcher reports in her presentation at the recent European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
Marcia Inhorn, a professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University, and her co-authors were interested in exploring why more women were choosing oocyte cryopreservation (or egg freezing). Recruiting participants from eight IVF clinics in the US and Israel, anthropologists conducted interviews with 150 women (114 in select US cities and 36 abroad) who had completed one cycle of egg freezing already between June 2014 to August 2016.
Researchers determined that most of the women weren't "preserving" their fertility because they wanted to focus on their careers, which is one commonly toted explanation. "It was clear early on but confirmed by the end of this study that the main reason this group of highly educated women were freezing their eggs, usually in their late 30s and early 40s, is that they had been unable to find a partner committed to, basically, marriage and family building with them," Inhorn tells Broadly. "In almost all cases, women told me they had been trying all throughout their education and careers to find a partner in life, but that it hadn't happened yet."
The study notes that this is a "reflection of a growing, but little-discussed gender trend, with women increasingly outnumbering male college graduates in both countries." In other words, Inhorn says, "it's a demographical issue."
She points to US Census data compiled by author Jon Birger in his book Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game, which found evidence of a growing educational disparity between men and women. For example, the study notes, in cities such as Washington, DC, and Miami, the difference between male and female college graduates was 49 percent and 86 percent, respectively (both Miami and Washington, DC were selected cities in this study).
"Because of this dearth of educated men to marry, women resorted to EEF as a technological concession to the 'man deficit,'" the study's authors report. "Almost all of the women in this study were heterosexual and wanted to become married mothers. Women lamented the 'missing men' in their lives, viewing egg freezing as a way to buy time while on the continuing (online) search for a committed partner."
Inhorn says often women feel like there's something wrong with them when they're unable to find a partner to build a family with. These findings, however, suggest that "it's not the women," she says. "It's that there literally are now sharp demographic disparities for women who would like to be with an educated partner."
She also notes that having the ability to freeze their eggs gave many of the participants a feeling of empowerment. "Almost all of the women that I spoke to were glad that they'd done it. They felt it had given them some measure of control, a kind of peace of mind, and it actually took the desperation out of dating and feeling like they were under the pressure of the biological clock."
"Women really said they felt empowered by doing it," Inhorn continued, "but the problem is one of gender and education, and no one's really been looking at that or talking about the fact that women are outpacing men. It's wonderful that women are exceling educationally, but it's also leading to some other issues that haven't really been explored well enough."