The predisposition to and clinical phenotype of systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, are affected by genetic and environmental factors. This article aims to examine whether Asians have worse lupus by reviewing the literature on genetic predisposition and clinical outcomes, including major organ involvement, damage score and mortality in Asian populations compared with other ethnicities. A number of lupus nephritis susceptibility genes have been identified in Asians and White patients, with further variations among different Asian populations. Meta-analysis studies on various Fcγ receptor subtypes revealed that FcγRIIIA-F158 allele, which is associated with low binding affinity to IgG1 and IgG3, predisposed to lupus nephritis in Asian patients. Asian patients were reported to have higher rates of lupus nephritis-associated autoantibodies, lupus nephritis and more active glomerulonephritis compared with White patients. Renal outcome and the level of immunosuppressant use in Asians were comparable to Afro-American Blacks in some studies. Asians were also found to have higher overall damage scores compared with Whites. The difference in mortality between Asian patients and other ethnicities in different geographical regions was found to vary depending on socioeconomic factors such as access to health care. Poverty, education level, cultural and behavioural factors are confounders to ethnicity in determining clinical outcome of systemic lupus erythematosus.