Hochschild, Jennifer, and Maya Sen. 2012. Singular or Multiple? The Impact of Genomic Ancestry Testing on Americans’ Racial Identity. Copy at http://j.mp/PQUzRF
Abstract:Recreational DNA ancestry testing may seem frivolous, or at least unconnected with important issues in politics and political science. But, in fact, it opens new vistas onto two crucial questions: what is the relationship, if any, between biology and race? How much and why do individuals and groups prefer clear, singular racial identities or blurred, mixed racial self-images? This article probes those questions from an unusual angle: media treatment of and public responses to various choices in DNA ancestry testing. We analyze two databases of U.S. newspaper articles, one with almost 6,000 and a second of 700 items, and two new public opinion surveys. The first uses vignettes to obtain the views of a representative sample of Americans, and the second probes the responses of a representative sample who have conducted such tests. We find that the media emphasize stories focused on singularity, and that vignette respondents also generally prefer and are more influenced by singular rather than plural test results. Minority group members are especially receptive to DNA testing and its message of group singularity. Views of actual testers, however, suggest that when all Americans have access to genome sequencing, the politics of racial ancestry testing may change dramatically.