Wendy Roth was recently featured in a Huffington Post article about the role of DNA kits like 23andMe in perceptions of race and identity. “Race is not something that is just genetic. Genetics play a part, but only a part,” Roth explains. “The way that sociologists define race is something that is socially determined, that refers to aspects of your biology or your ancestry. But it’s only referring to them.”
Associate Professor of Sociology
Ph.D., Sociology and Social Policy, Harvard University, 2006
My research focuses primarily on how social processes challenge racial and ethnic boundaries and transform classification systems. I’ve examined this with regard to immigration, interracial marriage and the classification of multiracial children, and genetic ancestry testing. I am also interested in the multiple dimensions of race – how self-identification, observation by others, known ancestry, genetic ancestry, phenotype, and other dimensions are increasingly diverging, and what this means for survey statistics and the racial inequalities they are used to measure.
My current research examines the social impact of genetic ancestry testing, focusing on how tests influence racial and ethnic identity, conceptions of race, racial attitudes, and racial interactions. One project conducted 115 qualitative interviews with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds who purchased genetic ancestry tests. Another project is a randomized controlled trial that randomly assigns people to receive genetic ancestry tests or not, to study the causal impact of testing.