NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Genetic Studies Show Race Is Not A Scientific Concept

August 23, 2000

Race is a social concept without much basis in biology, say geneticists. Group differences between races are so minuscule as to be relatively unimportant, and have little or no biological meaning.

  • Scientists estimate that 99.9 percent of the human genome is the same in everyone.
  • The proportion of a human's genes reflected in external appearance seems to be in the range of .01 percent, according to Harold P. Freeman of North General Hospital in Manhattan.
  • By contrast, traits like intelligence, artistic talent and social skills are likely to be shaped by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the 80,000 or so genes in the human genome.
  • Human genomic history indicates modern Homo sapiens originated in Africa 200,000 to 100,000 years ago, at which point a relatively small number of them began migrating into Europe, the Middle East, Asia and across the Bering land masses into the Americas.

Since the African emigrations began, a mere 7,000 generations have passed. Because of the limited founder population and the short time since dispersal, humans are strikingly homogeneous -- differing from one another only once in a thousand sub-units, called bases, out three billion. And of the differences between individuals, 88 to 90 percent can be found within a local population, while only about 10 to 12 percent distinguish one race from another.

Source: Natalie Angier, "Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show," New York Times, August 23, 2000.

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