Study finds couples from cultures in which sons are deemed more desirable are terminating female pregnancies

Christoforos Anagnostopoulos, a lecturer in statistics at Imperial College London, said the latter explanation might explain gender imbalances observed in two-child families. But it could not explain sex-ratio anomalies found in families of all sizes, particularly those with mothers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Dr Anagnostopoulos told The Independent: ‘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.

‘In the absence of a better theory, these findings can be interpreted as evidence that gender-selective abortion is taking place.’