Journal Article

How many more missing women? Excess female mortality and prenatal sex selection, 1970–2050

Sex-based discrimination has resulted in severe demographic imbalances between males and females, culminating in a large number of "missing women" in several countries around the world. We provide new estimates and projections of the number of missing females and of the roles played by prenatal and postnatal factors in this imbalance. We estimate time series of the number of missing females, the number of excess female deaths, and the number of missing female births for the world and selected countries. Estimates are provided for 1970–2010 and projections are made from 2010 to 2050. We show that the estimates of these different indicators are consistent with one another and account for the dynamics of the population of missing females over time. We conclude that the number of missing females has steadily risen in the past decades, reaching 126 million in 2010, and the number is expected to peak at 150 million in 2035. Excess mortality was the dominant cause of missing females in the past, and this is expected to remain the case in future decades in spite of the recent rise of prenatal sex selection. The annual number of newly missing females reached 3.4 million in 2010 and is expected to remain above 3 million every year until 2050.