Sex ratio is the ratio between female births and male births during a given period in a given area. The sex ratio "naturally" observed in most populations is between 950 and 1000 girls for 1000 boys. As T.E.D. indicated in a comment, the world wide sex ratio seems to be about 943.

A low sex ratio is often pointed to as a consequence of sex-selective abortion and gender-motivated infanticide that may happen for cultural or economic reasons. It has been considered a huge issue in India and China in the last decades and different programs have been developed to fight against sex-selective abortions and infanticides.

In the state of Haryana, in the north of India, the sex ratio has been measured by the Indian census and has been as low as 861 girls born for 1000 boys in 2001, and 879 in 2011.

In 2017, it has been reported that the fight against sex-selective abortions has brought great results, with the sex-ratio state-wise rising above 950 for the first time since measurement started.

However, I find the details of the figures a bit confusing:

As per district-wise data, the sex ratio at birth during March in Kaithal, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Gurugram, Bhiwani, Jind, Fatehabad, Panchkula, Rewari, Ambala, Mewat, Sonepat and Faridabad was 864, 863, 893, 893, 893, 896, 898, 912, 913, 921, 926, 939 and 947 respectively.

The ratio in Karnal, Hisar, Yamunanagar, Sirsa, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Palwal and Narnaul was 953, 972, 974, 976, 980, 993, 1.217 and 1.279 respectively, as per information provided by the state government.

It is hard for me to understand such huge differences among the different districts. Of course, the fight against female-adverse cultural bias will be more effective in some areas than others and that explains why some districts still have a sex ratio below 900, most probably due to sex-selective abortions still occurring.

However, how can Palwal and Narnaul have a sex ratio above 1200 ? If the figures are genuine, that would mean a huge male-adverse gender selection occurred, which strikes me as very implausible. Both districts have a population of around 1.000.000, hence about 2000 births a month (using India 19.3/1000 births rate in 2016). A ratio above 1200 would then translate as around 1100 girls and 900 boys born in each of these states, which is statistically extremely unlikely if the probability of a boy is 0.5.

  • Is there any rationale that can explain a sex ratio above 1200 among large populations?

  • Have there been any comments by programs fighting sex-selective abortions about the likelihood of the official statistics?

  • Is there any other example of a state or a country (pop>1.000.000) with a sex ratio above 1200?

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    The problem with randomness is that very unlikely cases are still possible.
    – Communisty
    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:55
  • @Communisty: sure, but when an event that unlikely happens in two different districts of the same state and in the same year, it is reasonnable to wonder if there are other explanations than variability, isn't it ?
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 11:45
  • @OlivierPucher you may be right but that statement is from state government chief minister, at least he can not play with the bogus fact. So I think we should not raise any question on the statement by govt. itself. Aug 18, 2017 at 11:51
  • You've already pointed out selective abortion, both pre- and postnatal. Because of cultural context, poor families have a good reason for killing girls (because they have no money for the dowry). Aug 18, 2017 at 20:34
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    I think this is a case of bad data. After extensive searching, I couldn't find any official government numbers to back up the data in the URL you link. There is a lot of India census data out there, including 2017 births, but nothing showing or even implying the numbers in the article you link.
    – user2565
    Aug 19, 2017 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


This is a biological answer rather than a political one, but...

I have heard it asserted that an unnaturally gender-tilted environment actually selects for the other gender. Given binary pairings, if there are a lot more men than women, people who have male children are actually less likely to have their genes passed on to the next generation than those who have female children. This perversely ends up selecting for couples who (for whatever reason) are more apt to have female children.

Because of this genetic balancing effect, it really takes a concerted effort to make a huge dent in a country's gender balance. China managed it due to an unforeseen confluence of totalitarian control, a child control policy, and free access to abortion. But for most of the rest of us, there really isn't much of a problem.

Here's a map of world youth (<15) population imbalance by country. Blue for more women than average, red for more men. enter image description here

Notice India is pretty even, and identical to other countries in its region.

  • @SoylentGray - Good point. Hopefully this helps.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 18, 2017 at 15:57
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    Can this idea be backed-up? Aug 18, 2017 at 16:11
  • @indigochild - I'll do my best to look it up. It was a loooong time ago when I read it though. Like decades. Was in an article about what was going in with family control in China.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:37
  • (although the mechanics of how natural selection works I'd think wouldn't be particularly controversial)
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:47
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    Perhaps you have a source for the map? Also I'm skeptical of a quick natural correction: The imbalance is supposed to be because society values males more. Adding a reason females would be preferred is not certain to override the existing bias at any particular level and might be expected to take generations to settle since perception of scarcity might be guessed to be based on the existing ratio, but scarcity is also effected on cohort choices.
    – user9389
    Aug 18, 2017 at 20:44

No there is no state in India that has a sex ratio more than 1200, but two states Kerla(1084) and Puduchery(1037) have sex ratios above 1000. And about the Haryana, we don't have the clear idea how they have calculated the data and what was the over all manipulation. and also might be that was internal census inside the haryana only.

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    Any argument to explain why Kerala has such a high sex ratio, seemingly over a long period, (1058 in 2001, 1084 in 2011) would be helpful. Also, why then is the Child sex ratio (girls under 6 / boys under 6) as low as 964. Reconciliating the two figures would require either huge variations from year to year, super high mortality for baby girls (and not boys), migration of baby girls out of Kerala (or of baby boys into Kerala)... events all very, very unlikely. census2011.co.in/census/state/kerala.html
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:03
  • @OlivierPucher Kerala has higher education levels, which might be why it has better sex ratio Aug 18, 2017 at 14:11
  • @RegisteredUser : I understand that when you have better education you have less prejudice against girls and you don't practice gender selection. That would explain a sex ratio in between 950 and 1000, rather than 850 or worse. But when you are educated and have a child, are you more likely to have a girl than boy ? I don't think so, but that's what statistics in Kerala seem to show. Moreover, the huge gap between sex ratio at birth (1084) and child sex ratio (964) remains unexplained.
    – Evargalo
    Aug 18, 2017 at 14:47
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    Note that Wikipedia reports the rate for the entire human race at birth would be (by the scheme used here) about 943
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 18, 2017 at 15:37

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