Jane Austen said a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
But fast forward to the 21st Century, and it seems a single woman in possession of a degree is in want of an intellectual match.
More and more smart young women are choosing to freeze their eggs due to a “dearth of educated men to marry”, a new study claims.
Researchers from Yale University said a “terrifying” shift of demographic in a modern era had left a “deficit” of graduate men and an “oversupply” of graduate women.
And the problem is exacerbated in countries where more women go to university – such as the UK.
The team of anthropologists interviewed 150 women who had frozen eggs, of whom 90% said they could not find a suitable partner. These professional women - who vastly outweigh male graduates in certain countries - are buying time because they cannot find an eligible candidate to settle down with.
They are “desperate” to preserve their fertility as they struggle to meet someone who feels like an equal match, researchers said.
The new study casts an interesting light on the “selfish career women” myth, the Yale academics claimed.
Contrary to common perception, women are not putting off starting a family in order to prioritise their jobs.
“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,” the study’s author, Professor Marcia Inhorn, said.
“Rather, they were desperately preserving their fertility beyond the natural end of their reproductive lives, because they were single without partners to marry.”
Women are losing in the game of “musical chairs” because there aren’t enough eligible men to go around, Prof Inhorn added.
The gender balance at British universities has shifted dramatically in the past 50 years.
Women in the UK are now 35% more likely than men to go to university and the gap is widening every year. If the current gender divide continues, a baby girl born in 2016 will be 75% more likely to go to university than a boy.
The research was presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Geneva this week.
The interviews were conducted with “highly educated, very successful women” in the US and Israel but are also relevant to the UK, given our significant gender division at universities here.
“There is a major gap - they are literally missing men,” Prof Inhorn said. “There are not enough college graduates for them. In simple terms, this is about an oversupply of educated women.
“In China they call them ‘left over women’. It sounds cold and callous but in demographic terms this is about missing men and left over women.
“It may be about rethinking the way we approach this,” she added.
“Maybe women need to be prepared to be more open to the idea of a relationship with someone not as educated. But also may be we need to be doing something about our boys and young men, to get them off to a better start.”