The purpose of this study is to compare two groups of adults from different races who were selected on the basis of having normal ("ideal") occlusions and well-balanced faces. The lateral cephalometric radiographs of 54 Japanese adults (26 men and 28 women) were compared with a sample of 125 adults (44 men and 81 women) of European-American ancestry. The samples were chosen by orthodontists of the same racial background as the sample selected. Each lateral cephalogram was traced and digitized, and differences between cephalometric measurements between groups were analyzed with completely randomized t tests. In comparison to the European-American sample, the Japanese sample, in general, was smaller in anteroposterior facial dimensions and proportionately larger in vertical facial dimensions. The facial axis angle was more vertical in Japanese subjects, indicating a more downward direction of facial development. On average, the subjects in the Japanese sample were more protrusive dentally, with a more acute nasolabial angle and a greater tendency toward bilabial protrusion. These differences, evident even in groups with so-called "well-balanced faces", indicate that fundamental variation exists in the craniofacial structure of Japanese and European-Americans. The results of this study support the premise that a single standard of facial esthetics is not appropriate for application to diverse racial and ethnic groups.