According to data by the FBI, Black people in the U.S. are overrepresented among missing persons. While Black people make up around 14 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 37 percent of the missing registered with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. White people, who make up 75 percent of U.S. population, only accounted for 59 percent of missing people. The data does not distinguish for Latino/Hispanic origin.
Looking at differences in the age, race and sex of missing people in the U.S., younger people and especially younger women are also much more likely to be reported missing. While almost 380,000 individuals up until the age of 20 were registered as missing with the FBI, that number was only around 170,000 for persons 21 years and older. Out of those 20 and under who were reported missing, 54 percent were female, while that number was 39 percent for those over the age of 21. The number of missing young people is driven up by custodial disputes as well as runaways. These juveniles disappear on their own accord but can still be in great danger.
For young Black women 20 years of age or younger, these disparities mean that they make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population, but more than 15 percent of missing persons – or around 80,000 individuals in 2022. For comparison, these rates were 2 percent opposite 13 percent for Black males up until the age of 20, 8 percent opposite 21 percent for white females and 9 percent opposite 18 percent for white males, both aged 20 or below. Considering this, the case of a 25-year-old Alabama woman who faked her own disappearance to much media fanfare was heavily criticized this week as distracting from real problems of the race, age and gender dynamics of missing person cases.
While persons 21 years and older were generally underrepresented among missing persons, this applies to males to a lesser degree. Making up 29 percent of the population, white male adults constituted 12.6 percent of missing people – or 66,000 persons in 2022 – compared to ratios of 29 percent/8 percent for adult white women, 5 percent/5 percent for adult Black males and 5 percent/3 percent for adult Black women.