On the estimation of female births missing due to prenatal sex selection


This research note is prompted by a paper by Kashyap (Is prenatal sex selection associated with lower female child mortality? Population Studies 73(1) 57–78). Kashyap’s paper, which provides 40 original estimates of missing female births, relies on an alternative definition of missing female births, leading to estimates of about half the magnitude of other estimates. There appears, therefore, a real need to take stock of the concept of missing female births widely used by statisticians around the world for assessing the demographic consequences of prenatal sex selection. This research note starts with a brief review of the history of the concept and the difference between Amartya Sen’s original method and the alternative method found elsewhere to compute missing female births. We then put forward three different arguments (deterministic and probabilistic approaches, and consistency analysis) in support of the original computation procedure based on the number of observed male births and the expected sex ratio at birth.

Population Studies, 74(2) 283–289
Fengqing Chao
Research Scientist

My research interests include statistical demography, global health, Bayesian modeling, and time series analysis.