Missing women are not where you think

Typically there are more male births than females, an imbalance which evens itself out by the time a handful of testosterone-fuelled adolescent males have gotten themselves into sticky situations. In some parts of the world, however, there are substantially more men than women – notably in India and China, with tens of millions of ‘missing women.’ This is often put down to selective abortions/infanticide, but the data do not entirely support this theory.

Sources: Review of Economic Studies (2010) 77, 1262–1300, Missing Women: Age and Disease (pdf link); My analysis.

Around half the missing women in both countries are down to the mortality rate from mundane things such as cardiovascular disease being much higher amongst women than in the west (where fewer women than men die from such things). Over half the excess deaths occur within the adult population.

In China, circa 40% of the missing women are down to selective abortions and first year deaths, but this is not the case in India, where the largest cause of excess death is “injuries,” accounting for some 0.25m excess deaths per year, mostly occurring between the ages of 15 to 29.

Related Post: Increased chances of dying if you don’t get on well with your colleagues

Maths question: If a country were to implement a policy so that families had to stop having children once they had a boy, but could have as many daughters as they like until then, what would the male-female ratio be? Answer under the fold.

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