USING GENOMICS TO UNDERSTAND ETHNIC BACKGROUND AND COMMON ANCESTRY AMONG COUPLES.
The question of who marries whom is a central theme across the social sciences. The degree of marriage homogamy is a central factor to evaluate the closure of different social groups and to understand the reproduction of inequalities in modern society. Mate selection is highly structured by opportunities and exposure to potential partners individual preferences and cultural norms. We propose to use genomic data of couples to describe the degree of similarity in continental ancestry in order to examine resemblance of spouses and romantic couples in contemporaneous societies. Biological ancestry is genetically informed and represent the history of migration and admixture of previous generations. Ancestry is a concept different from ethnic and racial identity. It refers to the geographical origin, genomic heritage, culture and language that is passed through generations. Diversity in genomic ancestry is usually considered a confounder in genomic studies who seek to understand the biological basis of diseases and traits.
However, from a sociological point of view, understanding the social processes at the basis of differences in health and socio-economic outcomes across different groups is perhaps the most important aspect of scientific inquiry. Genomic data will be derived from couples in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and romantic couples from The National Longitudinal Studies of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Previous studies on assortative mating using genetic studies focused on the degree of educational assortative mating, concluding that, net of population stratification, most of the degree in educational similarity in education is due to non-genetic factors. Population stratification is recognized to be a main factor in assortative mating as it represents geographical and social distance across groups. The findings from this project will give a more detailed picture of assortative mating in different societies.