Accuracy of administratively-assigned ancestry for diverse populations in an electronic medical record-linked biobank

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 4;9(6):e99161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099161. eCollection 2014.


Recently, the development of biobanks linked to electronic medical records has presented new opportunities for genetic and epidemiological research. Studies based on these resources, however, present unique challenges, including the accurate assignment of individual-level population ancestry. In this work we examine the accuracy of administratively-assigned race in diverse populations by comparing assigned races to genetically-defined ancestry estimates. Using 220 ancestry informative markers, we generated principal components for patients in our dataset, which were used to cluster patients into groups based on genetic ancestry. Consistent with other studies, we find a strong overall agreement (Kappa = 0.872) between genetic ancestry and assigned race, with higher rates of agreement for African-descent and European-descent assignments, and reduced agreement for Hispanic, East Asian-descent, and South Asian-descent assignments. These results suggest caution when selecting study samples of non-African and non-European backgrounds when administratively-assigned race from biobanks is used.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks*
  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Ethnic Groups / genetics*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans


  • Genetic Markers