Egg-freezing for so-called “social” (as opposed to medical) reasons is relatively new: The “experimental” tag was only lifted from the technology in the US in October 2012. In 2015, only about 6,200 women froze eggs in the US. In the UK in 2016, about 1,000 women froze their eggs.

The conclusions echo smaller studies that had similar findings. Nevertheless, Inhorn said, there’s a perception that women have other motivations for both their deferred parenthood and their solo status, a skew in public discourse which began to be documented by academics in 2013.

Why do so many women find themselves without a partner in their fertile years? It’s at least in part a matter of demographics.

Jon Birger, a journalist and co-author of the Yale paper, used US census data to show an imbalance in the number of college-educated women and similarly-educated men for his book Date-onomics. “Between the ages of 30 and 39—when women start freezing their eggs—there are 7.4 million university-educated American women for only 6 million university-educated American men,” the study notes. “This is a ratio of 5:4.”

And it’s not just a US problem. A similar deficit of educated men exists in at least 70 countries, according to World Bank data cited by the authors, which counted the ratio of women to men in higher education from 2012 to 2016:

This state of stasis, where a woman can’t get on with the next part of her life because of the lack of suitable partner, even has a name, coined by Diane Singerman, a professor at American University in Washington, DC: Waithood. It’s a predicament women don’t want, and they certainly don’t plan on it, said Inhorn.

Egg-freezing isn’t a perfect solution, but for a growing number of women, is one way to manage an imperfect situation.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.