Race and Genetics in Society

We are conducting a variety of studies to understand people’s interpretations, attitudes, and behaviors concerning race.

US Public Perspectives on Race and Genetics

Goal: Assess beliefs and attitudes in the US concerning race.

Collaborators: Robert Agans, Kerry Haynie, Anna Hoffmeyer, William Kalsbeek, Chantelle Wolpert

Funder: National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH

Little is known about the general public’s understanding of the relationship between race and genetics. Previous research indicates that the general US public perceives race as a multidimensional construct including both biological and social construction aspects. Individuals do not appear to make a direct connection between race and genetics, but tend to equate ‘genes’ with physical features and tend to equate physical features, especially skin color, with race.

Other findings show that Whites, compared with African Americans, tend to rely on physical characteristics for determining race, whereas African Americans held a more nuanced conception of race. Conceptions of race also vary across geography, culture, and countries; therefore an individual’s identity often differs across different nations’ census documents. 

How the public conceptualizes race and genetics has far-reaching and long-lasting personal and social implications. It can reinforce stereotypes, influence how we view ourselves and each other, and can guide our behavior towards one another or groups of people.


Evaluation of Sickle Cell Trait Screening in the NCAA

Goal: Assess the processes and outcomes of implementing the NCAA sickle cell trait screening program, as well as the attitudes and experiences of athletic staff and student-athletes involved in the screening program.

Collaborators: Charlotte Baker, Melissa Creary, Lori-Ann Daley, Althea Grant, Mary Anne McDonald, 

Funder: National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

The sudden death of college athletes after periods of over-exhaustion during conditioning has sparked debate over the impact of sickle cell trait (SCT) on the health and safety of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) student-athletes.

Highly publicized cases of non-traumatic injuries resulting in death associated with carrying SCT prompted the NCAA to adopt a mandatory screening program for the trait in student-athletes in 2010.

However, much controversy surrounds both the implementation of this screening program and the scientific validity of linking sickle cell trait with deaths occurring after periods of excessive exercise.