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Missing Women: Age and Disease: A Correction


  • Stephan Klasen

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

  • Sebastian Vollmer

    (Georg-August-University Göttingen)


In a recent paper in the Review of Economic Studies, Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray (Anderson and Ray, 2010) develop and apply a new ‘flow’ measure of ‘missing women’ to estimate the extent of gender bias in mortality in developing countries. Contrary to the existing literature, they find that the problem of gender bias in mortality is as severe among adults as it is among children in India, that gender bias in mortality is larger in Sub‐Saharan Africa than in China and India, and that there was substantial evidence of gender bias in mortality in the US around 1900. These latter results are driven largely by the finding of substantial gender bias among adults. We show first that the data for Sub‐Saharan Africa used in the paper are generated by simulations in ways that deliver their findings on Africa (and the US in 1900) by construction. Second, we show that the analysis is entirely dependent on a highly implausible reference standard that is inappropriately applied to settings where the overall disease and mortality environment differ greatly; the attempt to control for the disease environment by the authors is not able to address these issues. When a more appropriate reference standard is used, most of the new findings of Anderson and Ray disappear. Instead, the findings from the existing literature relying on stock measures of missing women are confirmed. The one finding that remains and deserves further attention is some evidence of gender bias in mortality among young adults in Africa (though of much lower magnitude than suggested by Anderson and Ray).

Suggested Citation

  • Stephan Klasen & Sebastian Vollmer, 2013. "Missing Women: Age and Disease: A Correction," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 133, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  • Handle: RePEc:got:gotcrc:133

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Milazzo, Annamaria, 2014. "Why are adult women missing ? son preference and maternal survival in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6802, The World Bank.
    2. Alexander Stimpfle & David Stadelmann, 2016. "Does Central Europe Import the Missing Women Phenomenon?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2016-04, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    3. Milazzo, Annamaria, 2014. "Son preference, fertility and family structure : evidence from reproductive behavior among Nigerian women," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6869, The World Bank.
    4. Arusha Cooray & Stephan Klasen, 2014. "Maternal Mortality, Religion and the Enrolment of Girls and Boys: Is there a Link?," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 19714, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    5. Van Campenhout, Bjorn, 2016. "Fertility, Agricultural Labor Supply, and Production: Instrumental Variable Evidence from Uganda," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(03), pages 581-607, December.
    6. John Bongaarts & Christophe Z. Guilmoto, 2015. "How Many More Missing Women? Excess Female Mortality and Prenatal Sex Selection, 1970–2050," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 41(2), pages 241-269, June.

    More about this item


    Missing women; gender bias; mortality; disease; age; Sub‐Saharan Africa; China; India;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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