Bias Ratio (Calculation, Applications & Python Example)

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Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

The Bias Ratio is a relatively lesser-known risk-adjusted performance metric.

It is designed to quantify and understand the skewness and kurtosis (shape characteristics) of the distribution of investment returns.

Essentially, the Bias Ratio helps in identifying whether the returns of a portfolio or asset are normally distributed or if they exhibit a bias due to the presence of extreme values or outliers.

It’s often used to determine cases of subjective returns (e.g., illiquid assets that aren’t marked to market) or malfeasance (e.g., fraudulent return reporting).


Key Takeaways – Bias Ratio

  • The Bias Ratio is a financial metric used to detect valuation bias or deliberate price manipulation in investment portfolios, particularly by fund managers.
  • Does so via the assessment of skewness and kurtosis in the distribution.
  • It analyzes return distributions for abnormalities.
  • It may highlight the presence of biased pricing or smoothing of returns, especially in illiquid assets.
  • This tool is valuable for due diligence and ensuring transparency in fund management, aiding in the identification of potentially unethical practices.




The specific formula for the Bias Ratio can vary based on the approach and the specific aspect of skewness or kurtosis being analyzed.

It generally involves comparing the frequency and magnitude of positive returns against negative returns over a given period.

But, in general, the Bias Ratio is calculated as the ratio of the skewness to the excess kurtosis of a portfolio’s return distribution.

We use this definition in our example below.

Via this formula, it serves as a measure to detect potential manipulation or biases in the reported returns.


  • Skewness: This measures the asymmetry of the return distribution. A positive skew indicates more frequent small losses and a few large gains, while a negative skew indicates more frequent small gains and a few large losses.
  • Kurtosis: This measures the “tailedness” of the distribution. High kurtosis means more frequent extreme returns (both high and low), while low kurtosis indicates a more uniform distribution of returns.



Portfolio Construction

For portfolio managers, understanding the Bias Ratio can guide the construction of portfolios, especially when tail risk or asymmetry in returns is a concern.

Performance Analysis

Analyzing the Bias Ratio of returns can provide insights into the performance characteristics of a portfolio.

It can help in the identification of strategies that may be overly reliant on outlier events.

Risk Assessment

The Bias Ratio helps in assessing the risks associated with a portfolio – especially those related to extreme market movements.

It provides a deeper understanding of the risk beyond standard deviation and variance.

Skewness and kurtosis are known as “higher moments” (standard deviation and variance are lower moments).

Quants may try to optimize portfolios for skewness and kurtosis (i.e., positive skewness and low kurtosis).

We looked at skewness and kurtosis as it pertained to various portfolio approaches, such as the following:



Tail Risk Management

The Bias Ratio is particularly useful in managing tail risk.

It helps in identifying strategies that might be exposed to extreme market movements.

Asymmetric Return Analysis

In strategies where returns are expected to be asymmetric, the Bias Ratio can be an effective tool to quantify and manage this asymmetry.



Beyond Standard Analysis

The Bias Ratio offers insights into the shape of the return distribution, which standard metrics like the Sharpe Ratio or standard deviation may not fully capture.

Tail Risk Identification

It is particularly effective in identifying tail risks, which are often a major concern for traders, investors, and portfolio managers.




Understanding and interpreting the Bias Ratio requires a more advanced level of statistical knowledge, which may not be accessible to all traders/investors.


The implications of a high or low Bias Ratio can vary depending on the investment strategy and the overall market context.

Data Sensitivity

The accuracy of the Bias Ratio is heavily dependent on the quality and quantity of data.

It may be influenced by anomalies in return data.


Bias Ratio Example in Python

Calculating the Bias Ratio in a portfolio requires assessing the skewness and kurtosis of the portfolio’s return distribution.

The Bias Ratio is often defined as the ratio of the skewness to the excess kurtosis of the return distribution.

A higher Bias Ratio indicates a greater likelihood of manipulation or bias in the reported returns.

Here’s an example Python script to calculate the Bias Ratio, assuming you have a DataFrame of portfolio returns.

First, make sure you have the necessary libraries:


pip install pandas numpy scipy


The script:


import pandas as pd

import numpy as np

from scipy.stats import skew, kurtosis

# Sample data: Replace this with your actual portfolio returns

# Assuming a DataFrame with a 'Returns' column

data = {

    'Returns': [0.02, 0.03, -0.01, 0.04, 0.03, -0.02, 0.05, 0.01, -0.03, 0.04]


portfolio_returns = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Calculate skewness and kurtosis

skewness = skew(portfolio_returns['Returns'])

excess_kurtosis = kurtosis(portfolio_returns['Returns'], fisher=True# Fisher's definition subtracts 3 from the sample kurtosis

# Calculate the Bias Ratio

bias_ratio = skewness / excess_kurtosis if excess_kurtosis != 0 else float('inf')

print(f"Skewness: {skewness}")

print(f"Excess Kurtosis: {excess_kurtosis}")

print(f"Bias Ratio: {bias_ratio}")


This code calculates the skewness and excess kurtosis of the returns, and then derives the Bias Ratio.

The Bias Ratio can be very sensitive to the specific data set, especially for small sample sizes.

It should be interpreted carefully and used as one of several tools for assessing portfolio performance and management.



The Bias Ratio is a tool for analyzing the distribution characteristics of investment returns, offering insights into skewness, kurtosis, and tail risks.

It provides a more nuanced view of risk and performance characteristics than more traditional metrics.

But its effective use requires a solid understanding of statistical concepts and a careful interpretation of the results in the context of the overall investment strategy and market environment.

For investors and portfolio managers, the Bias Ratio can be an important tool for risk assessment and portfolio analysis – particularly in strategies where tail risks and asymmetric returns are key considerations.