Crews, D.E. and J.R. Bindon. (1991) Ethnicity as a taxonomic tool in biomedical and biosocial research. Ethnicity and Disease, 1:42-49.

ABSTRACT: Ethnicity and race are commonly used in biomedical research to portion human populations into groups for analysis. The view taken here is that race is a sociological construct that is poorly correlated with any measurable biological or cultural phenomenon other than the amount of melanin in an individual's skin. On the other hand, ethnicity is a sociocultural construct that is often, if not always, coextensive with discernible features of a group of individuals. These features include, but need not be limited to, language, style of dress and adornment, religion, patterns of social interaction, and food habits. The purpose of this brief commentary is to examine definitional issues surrounding use of the term ethnicity, to review the use of ethnicity in biomedical and biosocial research, and to examine the ecological and evolutionary basis for ethnic differentiation in the human population. Its purpose is not to provide a final definition of ethnicity, but instead to suggest that ethnicity is a multiplex concept that has a variety of applications and definitions, each perhaps dependent upon particular research problems and situations. We suggest that individual researchers explicitly state how they are using ethnicity, what their chosen categories imply biologically and sociologically, and why their particular analyses are needed. This may help to limit conflicts that arise over the inappropriate use of ethnicity in biomedical and biocultural research.