The struggling American man is one of the few objects of bipartisan concern. Both conservatives and liberals bemoan men’s underrepresentation in higher education, their greater likelihood to die a “death of despair,” and the growing share of them who are not working or looking for work. But the chorus of concern rarely touches on how male decline shapes the lives of the people most likely to date or marry them—that is to say, women.
In Motherhood on Ice: The Mating Gap and Why Women Freeze Their Eggs, Marcia C. Inhorn, a medical anthropologist at Yale, tells this side of the story. Beginning in 2014, she conducted interviews with 150 American women who had frozen their eggs—most of them heterosexual women who wanted a partner they could have and raise children with. She concluded that, contrary to the commonly held notion that most professional women were freezing their eggs so they could lean into their jobs, “Egg freezing was not about their careers. It was about being single or in very unstable relationships with men who were unwilling to commit to them.”
Earlier in her career, Inhorn spent more than three decades researching assisted reproductive technologies and gender relations in the Middle East. She was struck by how many young Arab men valued and looked forward to fatherhood—a sharp contrast with what she heard from young American women, who shared story after story of men “who were simply unready or unwilling to commit.” Inhorn’s research reflected my own experience of freezing my eggs after struggling to find a partner, and after reaching out to her in 2018 to learn more about her work, I have gotten to know her, and learned of her plans to write this book early on.