Skip to content Skip to navigation

Aliya Saperstein and Sasha Johfre’s research on genetic ancestry testing in the Stanford News

Photo of a hand writing

Image credit: Getty Images

May 17 2021

Genetic ancestry test results shape race self-identification, Stanford researchers find

People who have taken a genetic ancestry test are more likely to report multiple races when self-identifying on surveys, according to Stanford sociologists.

A genetic ancestry test (GAT) can not only unearth deep family secrets, it also can change how people self-identify their race on surveys. A new study by Stanford sociologists delves into how such changes could affect data that demographers use to measure population shifts and monitor racial inequalities.

Aliya Saperstein, associate professor of sociology, and sociology doctoral candidate Sasha Shen Johfre explored how people who have taken a GAT use their newfound ancestry information to answer questions about race on demographic surveys. In a paper recently published online in the journal Demography, the researchers found that GAT takers were significantly overrepresented among people who self-identified with multiple races.

“Theoretically, race and ancestry are distinct constructs,” said lead author Johfre. “Race is more than just family history; it is a reflection of how society interprets a person’s ancestry.”

Click here to continue reading