Do Health and Forensic DNA Databases Increase Racial Disparities?

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Chow-White, Peter A. and Duster, Troy (2011) Do Health and Forensic DNA Databases Increase Racial Disparities? PLoS Medicine, 8 (10). e1001100.


The issue of the digital divide is a growing concern in health and forensic DNA databases, reflecting structural disparities in biomedical research and policing. Over the last decade, the majority of DNA samples in population studies are from individuals of European origin. Individuals from Asian, African, Latino, and aboriginal groups are underrepresented. Forensic DNA databases are growing to mirror racial disparities in arrest practices and incarceration rates. Individuals from African American and Latin1o groups are overrepresented in forensic from health DNA databases. Currently, there is little recognition in national and international public policy circles about the “digital divide” in health and law enforcement databases. To avoid reproducing structural patterns of racial inequality, regulators, policy makers, scientists, and law enforcement officials need to address these disparities by supporting policies and mechanisms designed to better protect individuals and groups through institutional practices, law, and securely encrypted digital codes.