Exogenous shocks to the human sex ratio: the case of September 11, 2001 in New York City

Hum Reprod. 2006 Dec;21(12):3127-31. doi: 10.1093/humrep/del283. Epub 2006 Aug 26.


Background: The human secondary sex ratio reportedly falls in populations subjected to exogenous stressors such as earthquakes or political and social upheavals. Explanations of the association include reduced conception of males and increased fetal deaths among males. The latter explanation has been supported by research reporting that the sex ratio in California fell 3 months, but not 8, 9 or 10 months, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. California's distance from the attacks raises the questions of whether the results arose from chance and would be found elsewhere. We contribute to the literature by testing the association between the secondary sex ratio and the events of September 11 in New York City.

Methods: We replicate the California tests by applying interrupted time-series methods, which control for secular trends, seasonality and other forms of autocorrelation, to 91 cohorts born in New York City during 28-day periods from January 1996 to June 2002.

Results: As hypothesized, the sex ratio in New York City in the period 1 January to 28 January 2002 fell to 1, which was the lowest observed value during the test period and significantly (i.e. P < 0.01, two-tailed test) below the value expected from history.

Conclusions: Our findings support the male fetal loss explanation of the association between exogenous population shocks and the secondary sex ratio.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Rate* / trends
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Sex Ratio*
  • Shock / epidemiology
  • Shock / etiology*
  • Terrorism*