06 February 2020

Do genetic ancestry tests increase racism?

Posted in PLOS One on 29 January, the full title of this article is Do genetic ancestry tests increase racial essentialism? Findings from a randomized controlled trial.

The abstract is copied below but the bottom line, my interpretation, is that people who understand genetics become less racist when they get their own results, and vice versa.

Genetic ancestry testing is a billion-dollar industry, with more than 26 million tests sold by 2018, which raises concerns over how it might influence test-takers’ understandings of race. While social scientists argue that genetic ancestry tests may promote an essentialist view of race as fixed and determining innate abilities, others suggest it could reduce essentialist views by reinforcing a view of race as socially constructed. Essentialist views are a concern because of their association with racism, particularly in its most extreme forms. Here we report the first randomized controlled trial of genetic ancestry testing conducted to examine potential causal relationships between taking the tests and essentialist views of race. Native-born White Americans were randomly assigned to receive Admixture and mtDNA tests or no tests. While we find no significant average effect of genetic ancestry testing on essentialism, secondary analyses reveal that the impact of these tests on racial essentialism varies by type of genetic knowledge. Within the treatment arm, essentialist beliefs significantly declined after testing among individuals with high genetic knowledge, but increased among those with the least genetic knowledge. Additional secondary analysis show that essentialist beliefs do not change based on the specific ancestries reported in test-takers’ results. These results indicate that individuals’ interpretations of genetic ancestry testing results, and the links between genes and race, may depend on their understanding of genetics.

1 comment:

reflective thoughts by barbara said...

Interesting thoughts.I do not know if genetics increases racism. I really think most of us test because it is the new thing in genealogy. Would it decrease racism? Not sure. What would decrease racism would be for everyone to be a blood donor. Everybody's blood is red!!