Race, Skin Color and Genetic Ancestry

Implications for Biomedical Research on Health Disparities

  • Rick A. Kittles University of Chicago
  • Eunice R. Santos University of Chicago
  • Nefertiti S. Oji-Njideka University of Chicago
  • Carolina Bonilla University of Oxford


Defining race continues to be a nemesis. Knowledge from human genetic research continuously challenges the notion that race and biology are inextricably linked, with implications across biomedical and public health disciplines. While it has become fashionable for scientists to declare that race is merely a social construction, there is little practical value to this belief since few in the public believe and act on it. In the U.S., race has largely been based on skin color and ancestry, both of which exhibit large variances within communities of color. Yet biomedical studies continue to examine black / white group differences in health. Here we discuss why using race in biomedical studies is problematic using examples from two U.S. groups (African and Hispanic Americans) which transcend ‘racial’ boundaries and bear the burden of health disparities.
How to Cite
Kittles, R. A., Santos, E. R., Oji-Njideka, N. S., & Bonilla, C. (2007). Race, Skin Color and Genetic Ancestry: Implications for Biomedical Research on Health Disparities. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 5(SI), 9-23. https://doi.org/10.32398/cjhp.v5iSI.1195