Measuring Race and Ancestry in the Age of Genetic Testing

Sasha Johfre , Stanford University
Aliya Saperstein, Stanford University

Will the recent explosion in popularity of genetic ancestry tests (GATs) change how American adults respond to questions on censuses and demographic surveys? We draw on a unique survey of over 100,000 U.S. adults that inquired about respondents’ racial and ancestral identities and genealogical knowledge. We find that people who have taken a GAT, compared to those who have not, are more likely to report multiple race and ancestry responses and also appear more sensitive to question order. Although reports of most race and ancestry categories increase among GAT takers, not all do; there are intriguing declines in reporting American Indian ancestry among self-identified White respondents who have taken GATs. We also explore whether consistency between race and ancestry responses differs between GAT takers and everyone else. As more Americans embrace genetic testing, we argue demographers must consider GATs in the development and interpretation of measures of race and ancestry.

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 Presented in Session 23. Racial/Ethnic Identity