Systematic review identified suboptimal reporting and use of race/ethnicity in general medical journals

J Clin Epidemiol. 2007 Jun;60(6):572-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2006.11.009. Epub 2007 Mar 26.


Objective: Methods of reporting of race/ethnicity in biomedical journals are largely unknown. We aimed to systematically examine the reporting practice of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) information in biomedical journals.

Study design and setting: All primary research articles that reported more than one racial/ethnic group, published between 1999 and 2003 in Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, The Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine (n=1,152) were reviewed for their use of race/ethnicity and SES variables. Interobserver reliability was assessed by independent abstraction of 10% of study sample.

Results: There were a total of 116 different terms used to describe various racial/ethnic groups. Assignment of race/ethnicity by self-report was stated in only 13% of papers; 52% of papers identifying race/ethnicity of study participants did not report any SES information. Overall, 16% of articles explicitly stated reasons for collecting information on race/ethnicity.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that race/ethnicity information was suboptimally reported in general medical journals. Terminology used was highly variable. Method of establishing racial/ethnic categories, rationale for collecting race/ethnicity data, and SES information were underreported.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Racial Groups*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Terminology as Topic