Summary: A new study by a prestigious global team explains what might become one of the major social science phenomena of the century — the rising number of women unable to marry. Their explanation is politically correct but a gross violation of basic social science methods. The actual answer goes to the heart of our changing society.
“Women graduates ‘desperately’ freeze eggs over ‘lack of men’. …Yale University researchers suggested an “oversupply” of graduate women left them struggling to find a partner and “desperate” to preserve fertility.”
— From the BBC.
Here’s the study. The authors come from prestigious universities (e.g., Stanford, Yale). They include practitioners and academics from a wide range of fields (nursing, anthropology, and medicine). The study is well designed and executed. Can you identify the logical error? It is easy to find. The error reveals much about modern feminism and shows why the social sciences have a replication crisis.
“Gender and educational disparities underlying elective egg freezing:
results from the first major qualitative study of oocyte cryopreservation
in the United States and Israel.”
By M. Inhorn, D. Birenbaum-Carmeli, L. Westphal, J. Doyle, N. Gleicher, M. Dirnfeld, D. Seidman, A. Kahane, D. Meirow, P. Patrizio.
Presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
July 2017. Abstract from the program book.
Study question: Why are educated professional women in the United States and Israel increasingly turning to oocyte cryopreservation as a way to preserve their fertility?
Summary answer: Highly educated professional women undergo oocyte cryopreservation for lack of partners to marry, not for educational or career ambitions, as media reports suggest.
What is known already.
In the United States and Israel, so-called “social” (elective) egg freezing is increasingly being adopted by professional women as a means of fertility preservation. Extensive media coverage suggests that educational and career ambitions are the main determinants of professional women’s fertility postponement, especially as they “lean in” to their careers. But is this true? To date, no major qualitative study of women’s egg freezing experiences has been undertaken to assess whether women are using egg freezing to postpone their fertility in pursuit of their professions, or whether other factors in women’s lives are more important in egg freezing decisions.
Study design, size, and duration.
This study is the first binational, qualitative comparison of women’s egg freezing decisions and experiences. It was undertaken from June 2014 to August 2016 in the United States and Israel, and involved in-depth interviews conducted by senior medical anthropologists in both countries. An identical interview guide was used in both countries, but translated into Hebrew in Israel.
Participants, materials, setting, methods.
In-depth, ethnographic interviews were conducted with 150 women who had undertaken elective egg freezing in the United States (114) and Israel (36). Women were recruited from a total of 8 IVF clinics (4 in each country; 3 academic, 5 private), located in several major American and Israeli cities (e.g., New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Haifa, and Tel Aviv).
Main results and the role of chance.
In both the US and Israel, women freezing their eggs for elective reasons were highly educated professionals (>80% with graduate degrees) in their late 30 s/early 40 s. Most of these women (>90%) were not intentionally “postponing” their fertility because of education or careers. Rather, they were desperately “preserving” their fertility beyond the natural end of their reproductive lives, because they were single without partners to marry. In most cases, these women were unable to find educated men willing to commit to family life — the reflection of a growing, but little-discussed gender trend, with women increasingly outnumbering male college graduates in both countries.
Because of this dearth of educated men to marry, women resorted to egg freezing as a technological concession to the “man deficit.” However, egg freezing was not seen by most women as a “revolutionary” technology — one that creates new gender norms or family formations (e.g., single motherhood “by choice”). Rather, almost all of the women in this study who employed egg freezing 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.
Limitations, reasons for caution.
Participation in this study was voluntary, sampling was not random, and the response rate was unquantifiable. Still, the study sample was heterogeneous in terms of ethnicity and religion, particularly in the US, where egg freezing does not appear to be limited to professional white women, as media reports would suggest.
Wider implications of the findings.
Increasing numbers of highly educated professional women around the world are single. They may turn to egg freezing to preserve their fertility in the absence of male partners to marry. Egg freezing is thus a technological “fix” to a growing problem of “leftover” educated women and “missing” educated men.
The obvious flaw
They talk to 150 women who froze their eggs. They conclude that “In most cases, these women were unable to find educated men willing to commit to family life.” The stories about this study feature quotes like this by Professor Geeta Nargund (Medical Director of U.K. clinic Create Fertility): “Women tell us frequently that they are freezing their eggs because the men they meet feel threatened by their success and so unwilling to commit to starting a family together.”
The lead author is Professor Marcia Inhorn, Professor of Anthropology at Yale University and former President of the Society for Medical Anthropology. Her comment goes to the heart of their analysis.
“These are highly educated, very successful women and one after another they were saying they couldn’t find a partner. How could it be that all these amazing, attractive intelligent women were lamenting about their ability to find a partner?”
They do not interview the men these women dated, and in many cases lived with. Did they consider these women to be “amazing, attractive, and intelligent”? What kind of social scientists accept people’s subjective statements about their lives to be true without verification? How did this shoddy work get through peer-review? The study provides zero evidence explaining why these women have not married. A more accurate statement of the study’s conclusion is (red emphasis added)…
“In most cases, these women were unable to find educated men willing to commit to family life with them.”
What has changed from previous generations?
The women in the study blamed men for their condition. The study made no effort to verify their statements. Were these men married before meeting these women? Did some or most of those men marry other women after moving on from the study’s sample women?
It’s an especially salient question since women having their eggs frozen are an unusual group of women. Were there factors in these women’s psychology, appearance, or behavior that might account for their inability to find “educated men willing to commit to family life” with them?
Perhaps men have been liberated from the gender role of husbands. The authors share the perspective seen in countless women’s articles. Such as “Peter Pan Syndrome: A Man’s Fear of Commitment” at the Self-Love-Beauty website. Feminism has opened new vistas for women’s live. But marriage and family remain the sign of men’s maturity. These women see themselves as prizes. Refusal of men to marry them must mean that the men are defective — or men worthy of them in short supply.
None of these questions appear to have occurred to the investigators. I can’t image why. It’s not gender bias; seven of the ten authors are men (Marcia. Daphna, Lynn Marie, Joseph, Norbert, Martha, Daniel, Arik, Dror, Pasquale).
An unmentionable future, too scary to contemplate
Might the hidden assumption supporting modern women’s lives be wrong? A thousand and one sages advise women to have fun and delay marriage. Because boys will be eager to put rings on their fingers when they are ready.
But there have been warnings that society is changing, such as this Pew Research report from 2014.
“According to Pew Research projections based on census data, when today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (25%) is likely to have never been married.”
What if they are much too optimistic? Probably there will be an increase in the number of women who choose not marry. It would be revolutionary possibility is there is a large increase in the number of men unwilling “to commit to family life.” I have written about the reasons this might happen (see the next section). Most commenters are incredulous. My favorite is by Lisa, whose feminist rant boils down to Men must marry the available women, under the terms women offer. Tens of millions of women have bet big that she is right.
Since Alexis de Tocqueville toured America in 1831, the family has been considered the foundation of American society. A collapse in marriage rates would torque American society as it has seldom been torqued.
A core belief of modern feminism is that women can say “no”. The next generation might be radically reshaped by the discovery that men also can say “no”.
For More Information
For more about the authors’ theory see the US Census data compiled by Jon Birger in Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game. For another set of numbers: freezing your eggs costs costs $10+ thousand plus $800/yr.
- Do we want to bring back traditional marriage? What is traditional marriage?
- A brief guide to the new war of the sexes. Both sides are 100% right.
- Why men are avoiding work and marriage.
- Will young men break America’s family structure?
- Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.
- Movies show the hidden truth about romance & marriage: they’re dying.
- For Father’s Day: revolutionary words that will forever change the American family.