According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUS) database, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 600,000 people go missing annually. Approximately 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year. Nationwide, there are roughly 6.5 missing persons for every 100,000 people.
Luckily, the vast majority of missing persons cases are quickly resolved. For example, in 2021, 521,705 missing person cases were reported, more than 485,000 of which were resolved within the year. The number of missing person cases has steadily declined since 1997 when nearly a million people were reported missing. In the past few two decades, communication has made it easier to keep in touch with and track persons, allowing missing person reports to fall by over 40%. Still, more than 20,000 missing person cases and 14,000 unidentified body cases remain open.
In absolute terms, California has the largest number of missing persons at 3,010. However, California’s rate of missing persons is roughly average, at 7.61 missing for every 100,000 people. The highest rate of missing persons by far is in sparsely populated Alaska, with 163.76 missing people per 100,000 of the population— far beyond any other state.
The state with the lowest rate of missing persons is Massachusetts, at 2.32 missing persons per 100,000. Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, South Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire all have missing persons rates below 3.5 per 100,000.
Tiny Rhode Island has the smallest number of missing persons in absolute terms, at 29. Other states with less than 100 missing persons include South Dakota (30), North Dakota (32), Delaware (45), New Hampshire (48), Wyoming (51), Vermont (61), the District of Columbia (62), and Nebraska (84).