Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 76 ›› Issue (2): 310-325.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202102005

• Population and Urban Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatio-temporal pattern evolution and formation mechanism of missing person incidents in China

LI Gang1,2(), XUE Shuyan1,2, MA Xueyao1,2, ZHOU Junjun1,2, XU Tingting1,2, WANG Jiaobei1,2   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
    2. Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and Environmental Carrying Capacity, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
  • Received:2019-08-15 Revised:2020-08-23 Online:2021-02-25 Published:2021-04-25
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41871144);Humanities and Social Science Foundation of Chinese Ministry of Education(16YJAZH028);Tang Scholar Program of Northwest University(2016)


The problem of missing persons brings about serious harm to their families and the society. An in-depth investigation of this issue is of great importance to protecting human lives and human rights. In this research, we collect the missing persons data during the period from 2015 to 2019 from the "China's Child Safety Emergency Response (CCSER)" platform. We use a series of techniques including text analysis, mathematical statistics, and spatial analysis to analyze the socio-demographic characteristics, evolution and formation mechanism of spatio-temporal patterns of missing persons in China. Major findings include: (1) The number of missing males is larger than that of missing females. The highest missing rate is found in people aged 8-16, followed by aged 2-7, aged 0-1, and aged 60-65. Three categories of missing persons are observed in the data, which are (in order of decreasing frequency): unconscious disappearance, active disappearance, and passive disappearance. Six sub-types of missing persons in a descending order by frequency are: running away from home, wandering away, abduction, physical or mental illness, losing track, and family dissension. (2) Hump-shaped curves are observed for temporal variations of the number, gender and age of missing persons, and the curves are symmetric about the year of 2017. The local spatial autocorrelation tests indicate that incidents of missing persons generally exhibit "low-high" and "high-low" clustering patterns. Provinces with a high incidence of missing persons are Guangdong, Zhejiang and Sichuan. (3) With respect to the spatial mobility of missing persons, intra-provincial mobility is more prevalent than inter-provincial mobility. Guangdong, Sichuan, Henan, and Jiangsu experience the highest intra-provincial mobility rate. Dominant paths of inter-provincial mobility are "Anhui-Jiangsu" route and "Guangxi-Guangdong" route. (4) The underlying mechanism of missing person incidents can be understood from the perspective of "strong and weak ties in social network". That is, the strentgth of people's social ties can impact the occurrence of missing persons.

Key words: missing persons, spatio-temporal pattern, formation mechanism, China