Genomic Social Demography: Leveraging DNA to Explore the Dynamic Relationship Between Race and Ancestry in the United States

Sam Trejo (Sociology), Spring 2023

While much social scientific research has focused on [i] theorizing about the distinction between race and ancestry and [ii] exploring how people interpret information from genetic ancestry tests, there is scant research which actually utilizes individual-level DNA-derived ancestry estimates. However, empirical research highlighting the nuanced and contextual relationship between race and genetic ancestry would serve to illustrate the distinction between the two concepts. We employ state-of-the-art genomic tools to obtain estimates of individual-level genetic ancestry proportions in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and examine the dynamic relationship between genetic ancestry and self-identified race. In doing so, we demonstrate how genetic ancestry measures can inform ongoing empirical questions about racial construction and inequality in the U.S today.