The literature suggests that Asians have lower bone mineral density and mass than whites. It has been proposed that these differences may be due to differences in height, weight, and factors other than ethnicity, but no study has made the appropriate direct comparisons. We compared total-body bone mineral density and mass between Asian and white women while controlling for factors known to be associated with bone mineral density and mass. Measurements were made in 129 Asian (primarily of Chinese ancestry) and 274 white women. A subgroup was formed of women who did not have a history of alcoholism, premenopausal amenorrhea, kidney disease, estrogen use, birth control pill use, thyroid disease, steroid use, hysterectomy, or smoking. In both the main group and the subgroups, bone mineral mass was significantly lower in Asian than in white women, but after analysis of covariance with body weight, height, and age (or years since menopause) as covariates, the differences between ethnic groups disappeared, except in the large group of premenopausal women, in whom average bone mineral density in Asians actually exceeded (p < 0.04) that in whites. The data set was also searched for Asian-white pairs who matched on 17 characteristics related to bone mineral density and mass. In the resulting 16 matched pairs, bone mineral density and mass were not different between ethnic groups. Although Asian women have lower bone mineral mass than white women, when weight, height, and other factors are controlled, bone mineral density and mass do not differ between Asian and white women.