Women aren't freezing their eggs because of their careers — it's because they can't find the right partners

Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution LicenceIt’s not because they’re focused on their careers.
  • Women are freezing their eggs because they can’t find stable partners – not because they’re focused on building their careers.
  • That’s according to a small study of women in the US and Israel.
  • Other research points to an imbalance of highly educated men and women, and some experts say men can be intimidated by women’s professional achievements.

“The calibre of women is just higher than the calibre of guys.”

That’s what one woman told researchers in a recent study of women’s motivations for freezing their eggs.

The researchers behind the study, led by Marcia C. Inhorn at Yale University and cited in The New York Times, conclude that lack of a stable partner is the most common reason for women to freeze their eggs – not a single-minded commitment to career planning, as is popularly believed.

In fact, career planning was the least common motivation for egg freezing in this study.

The study was small: The researchers interviewed 150 women who had undergone the procedure in the US and in Israel. But the findings echo those of other research in countries across the globe.

The results of Inhorn’s study showed that 85% of the women in the study were single when they froze their eggs, and most were heterosexual. The majority of the women in the study were highly educated professionals who’d gone through the procedure in their late 30s.

There’s an imbalance of highly educated men and women

In a paper describing the study, the authors cite an imbalance of highly educated men and women, across the globe but especially in the US. They write: “There was clear acknowledgment by many of the women in both countries that men of similar backgrounds – namely, single, college-educated, professionals, often with advanced degrees and high earnings – were simply hard to find.”

That finding makes sense in the context of previous research on the lack of “marriageable” men in the US. A 2017 paper from the University of Zurich, cited in Thrive Global, found that the fewer manufacturing jobs there are in a particular town or county, the lower the marriage rates in that area.

It’s a two-way street, experts say.

“The lack of good jobs for these men is making them less and less attractive to women in the marriage market, and women, with their greater earnings, can do fine remaining single,” Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, told Thrive Global.

On the other hand, “for gender identity reasons, these men may not want to enter into marriages with women who are dominating them economically, even if this would make economic sense to them,” Bertrand told Thrive Global.

Interestingly, many women in Inhorn’s study told the researchers that they had tried “dating down,” only to find that less educated or less successful men seemed to be “intimidated” by their achievements.

Indeed, journalist Jenna Birch documents a similar phenomenon in her book “The Love Gap“: Men say they want women who are smart, driven, ambitious, and accomplished – but when they actually date these women, they hesitate to start a relationship with them. Some men may be made uneasy by such a woman’s success, Birch found, especially if they haven’t yet achieved that level of success in their own careers.

In August, The New York Times reported that women who opt to freeze their eggs are getting younger and younger, and that the process is getting less expensive. (The Times reports that the cost of a single cycle can range from about $US4,000 to $US7,000.)

“I wear sunscreen to protect myself from future sun damage,” one woman told The Times. “I work out to keep off my weight. Why would I not do something to prevent future emotional pain and suffering?”

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