Conceptualizing human variation

S. O.Y. Keita, R. A. Kittles, C. D.M. Royal, G. E. Bonney, P. Furbert-Harris, G. M. Dunston, C. N. Rotimi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


What is the relationship between the patterns of biological and sociocultural variation in extant humans? Is this relationship accurately described, or best explained, by the term ‘race’ and the schema of ‘racial’ classification? What is the relationship between ‘race’, genetics and the demographic groups of society? Can extant humans be categorized into units that can scientifically be called ‘races’? These questions underlie the discussions that address the explanations for the observed differences in many domains between named demographic groups across societies. These domains include disease incidence and prevalence and other variables studied by biologists and social scientists. Here, we offer a perspective on understanding human variation by exploring the meaning and use of the term ‘race’ and its relationship to a range of data. The quest is for a more useful approach with which to understand human biological variation, one that may provide better research designs and inform public policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s17-s20
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number11S
StatePublished - Nov 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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