How widespread is sex-selective abortion?

The study claims that the practice is so common that the natural 50-50 gender balance has been upended in some immigrant communities. Based on extrapolations of the data, the newspaper claims that between 1,400 and 4,700 girls are missing from the 2011 national census records of England and Wales.

Last year the British government carried out its own investigation into gender-based abortions and found no evidence that it was taking place. The newspaper conceded that families choosing to keep having children until they naturally conceived a boy could account for most of the statistical bias.

Christoforos Anagnostopoulos, a lecturer in statistics at Imperial College London, however, said that among Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan communities there was evidence of a clear trend. “The only readily available explanation that is consistent with a statistically significant gender shift of the sort observed in the census data is gender-selective abortion,” he told the Independent. “In the absence of a better theory, these findings can be interpreted as evidence that gender-selective abortion is taking place.”