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Consumer (Dis-)interest in Genetic Ancestry Testing: The Roles of Race, Immigration, and Ancestral Certainty

Genetic ancestry testing (GAT) is marketed as a way to make up for missing knowledge about one’s ancestry. Previous research questions the GAT industry’s ability to fulfill this promise in terms of the validity and reliability of test results. We instead explore the demand side of GAT, evaluating who is most and least likely to express interest in GAT. Using data from an original, nationwide survey of over 100,000 American adults, we find that GAT interest is related to both self-identified race and immigrant generation, with Asian Americans and first-generation immigrants expressing the least interest. Our quantitative and qualitative evidence suggests interest is further shaped by a pre-existing sense of ancestral certainty, leading some individuals to decline GAT, even if it were free. How interest and ancestral certainty are patterned has implications for who is included in – and thus for the conclusions that can be drawn from – genetic ancestry databases.

New Genetics & Society
2019
Jasmine Little
Martin Maiers
Jill A. Hollenbach