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One of the weirder contradictions of contemporary dogma is the belief that race does not exist combined with the government’s obsession with counting everybody by self-identified race. If race doesn’t exist, you’d think that, say, the Obama Administration would be under a lot of pressure from its supporters to dump the racial/ethnic classification system. Strangely enough, it never seems to occur to all the True Believers to ask their friends running the federal government to change the system.
About 15 years ago, I wrote a long series of articles for VDARE in which I started out with a lot of anecdotes I had saved up over the years about how absurd the government’s racial/ethnic classification system was. But by the time I had gotten to the end, it struck me that the methods were, well, good enough for government work.
One of the common cliches is that race doesn’t exist at the genetic level. But there’s almost never any citation of the huge amount of data generated by genome analyses in the 21st century, which says the opposite.
In reality, not only does race pretty much exist, but self-identification is, at present, a reasonable way to get at the genetic reality.
The National Children’s Study was going to be a giant longitudinal study of nature and nurture — like National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 that was featured in The Bell Curve, but with DNA data from 100,000 children and their parents and then 21 years of environmental influences, including chemical traces in the home — that was approved by Congress in optimistic, budget-surplusy 2000. It was going to be like the Apollo Program of the human sciences, but it turned out more like the F-35, with eventual calls for 250,000 children and maybe $30 billion in spending. In 2014 the National Institutes of Health canceled the study after $1.3 billion had been spent getting ready to start. It’s pretty embarrassing for America.
There is, however, some data from the Vanguard pilot study for the NCS that started in 2009.
From Genome Biology:
Genetic ancestry of participants in the National Children’s Study
Erin N Smith, Kristen Jepsen, Angelo D Arias, Peter J Shepard, Christina D Chambers and Kelly A Frazer
Genome Biology 2014 15:R22
We estimated the genetic ancestry of a convenience sample of 641 parents enrolled at the 7 original NCS Vanguard sites, by analyzing 30,000 markers on exome arrays, using the 1000 Genomes Project superpopulations as reference populations, and compared this with the measures of self-reported ethnicity and race. For 99% of the individuals, self-reported ethnicity and race agreed with the predicted superpopulation. …
Our data suggest that self-reported ethnicity and race have some limitations in accurately capturing Hispanic and South Asian populations. Overall, however, our data indicate that despite the complexity of the US population, individuals know their ancestral origins, and that self-reported ethnicity and race is a reliable indicator of genetic ancestry.
I had never heard the word “superpopulations” before as a euphemism for continental-scales races, but it’s not the worst word I’ve come across.
By my quick count, out of 641 adults, 33 self-identified as Multiracial or Other, while 608 chose a single race/ethnicity bucket for themselves.
Of those 608, 600 (98.7%) turned out on their DNA test to be primarily what they self-identified as, while 8 of 608 turned out different.
Among the 430 people who self-identified as non-Hispanic white, 427 had their self-identifications confirmed by the genome analysis as of European ancestry, while 3 turned out to be “Admixed American” (another neologism, this time for mestizo).
When multiple superpopulations were plausible, they were all included as expected matches. For example, we expected self-reported Hispanic African Americans to be most similar to either the African (AFR) or the American Admixed (AMR) 1KG superpopulations. We did not include those that identified themselves as Multiracial or Non-Hispanic Other (a total of 33 individuals) in the concordance estimates. For the NCS participants, we observed high levels of agreement between estimated genetic ancestry and self-reported ethnicity and race (Figure 1). Overall, we observed high levels of agreement between self-report and estimated ancestry, with 601/608 (98.8%) concordant calls. …
Of the seven discordantly assigned individuals, six matched their second most likely super population group, and the remaining one matched their third most likely group.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the U.S. government’s racial categories are ideal. In particular, the decision to lump South Asians in with East Asians that was made under the Carter and Reagan Administrations to enable South Asians to get in on government contracting affirmative action and minority development low interest loans doesn’t make a lot of genetic sense:
For the Non-Hispanic Asian population, we observed two clearly distinct populations: those closely related to the ASN population, which is composed of Han Chinese individuals (from Beijing and Southern China), Chinese individuals from Denver (CO), Japanese individuals, and Kinh individuals from Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); and those closely related to the SAN population, which is a population composed of Gujarati Indian individuals from Texas (Figure 1; see Additional file 1). While of related ancestry, these two populations can be clearly discriminated genetically, and the currently used race category of ‘Asian’ does not adequately distinguish between individuals of South Asian versus East Asian descent, highlighting the relevance of using genetically determined ancestry rather than self-reported ancestry alone.
But virtually no white people have ever noticed they’re being hoodwinked over this, and the naive wheels don’t get any grease.