Back with a Vengeance: The Re-emergence of a Biological Conceptualization of Race in Research on Race/Ethnic Disparities in Health

Reanne Frank, Ohio State University and Harvard University
Danielle Frank, University of Washington

The debate over the role of race/ethnicity in determining disease susceptibility has been refreshed in the nearly 10 years since it was declared that race was arbitrary biological fiction. Whether or not researchers took heed of this claim at the time, the idea that race/ethnicity does indeed have a genetic basis is enjoying a dramatic resurgence in recent years, largely due to advancements in the Human Genome Project and related technologies. For those scientists who long believed race/ethnicity does meaningfully correlate with genetic variation, these recent developments have been hailed as an affirmation. For others however, there is a palpable sense that we are rushing headlong back into the nineteenth century. This paper proposes to review the new developments in genetics that have reinvigorated debates on the relationship between race and health and also to address their relevance to the demographic study of race/ethnic disparities in health.

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Presented in Session 8: Race, Ethnicity, and Health