The case of the white Cubans

By Razib Khan | April 15, 2012 6:11 pm

In a follow up to a post below, a new paper in PLoS Genetics has some data on American Hispanics. Specifically, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, and Cubans, as well as assorted Central and South Americans. I am not too interested in the cases except Cubans; no one doubts the mixed heritage of the other groups, though the African ancestry of Mexicans, and some Central and South Americans may surprise (again, I have to note that this not surprising in light of history, and has been robustly confirmed in the genomic literature).

But Cuban Americans are somewhat a special case. The vast majority, specifically, 85 percent, identify as white. This is a higher proportion than the number of self-identified whites in Cuba, and a function of the skewed nature of the migration out of Cuba socially and economically. By and large the white elite of the island fled Castro’s revolution to a far greater extent than the black lower classes. And contrary to American stereotypes of Latin American ease and openness about race, Cuba was a relatively stratified society, albeit not characterized by hypodescent. Slavery was not abolished on the island until 1884. Additionally, Cuba did experience a relatively large wave of Spanish immigration in the early 20th century. I have taken the claims of “pure Spanish ancestry” on face value in the past because of this history. But further genomic evidence makes me reconsider the biases in the reporting of ancestry. For example, I have heard singer Gloria Estefan mention that her heritage was of recent Spanish immigrants from Cuba, but Wikipedia indicates that this is the origin of her maternal lineage. It leaves her paternal lineage unaccounted for. I have no doubt that her father’s family were white Cubans, but if their roots on the island were somewhat deep, I am also sure that they had non-trivial African, and possibly Amerindian, ancestry.

The reason for some of these assertions from are the genomic results, like figure below from the paper mentioned above (reedited for some clarity and specificity).


This is the output of an algorithm which constructs a model of population structure. The full input data set included other Latin Americans besides the ones I’m displaying, as well as various HapMap and HGDP groups, including Africans, Europeans, and some “pure” Amerindian tribes. The plot to the left is at K = 3. That means that it has specified three ancestral populations. Because Europeans, Africans, and Amerindians, are very distinctive in relation to each other they naturally have overlapped almost perfectly with the three elements discerned by the program. The results are sorted by European, then African, and finally Amerindian, ancestry (so the Cuban rectangle actually consists of 50 single bars which report ancestral quanta per person, and so forth).

In regards to two technical details, 60,000 SNPs is more than enough to discern these three ancestral elements. But, I do worry a bit about weighting of the various populations in the total sample. I wish that the authors had outputted their results for the HapMap and HGDP groups in the supplements, so we could see the “noise” in the European components. That being said, I am moderately confident that their framework is able to pick up at least small proportions of African ancestry (<5 percent), because the results for Mexicans are almost in perfect alignment with other studies where the details were more transparent (the Mexican results are not shown in the post, but can be found in the paper).

As to the Cuban sample, the N is 50. About 70 percent of these are from in and around New York City, while the rest were from other northern cities. These are not “Miami Cubans.” Though the MESA data set has information on how many of the Hispanics identified as white, there was no breakdown for the Cubans. My working assumption is that these are not unrepresentative. This inference is based an an important prior: I have done genomic analysis of two individuals of white Cuban ancestry who had no known African heritage (in fact, one of individuals reported that the family exhibited white racist opinions and outlooks) who yielded clear African ancestry (on the order of ~10 percent for the Cuban lineage). One of these Cubans knew that their ancestry consisted of recent immigrants from Spain, so had no expectation of African ancestry.

Unfortunately, the bar plot above was not reported as a table, so we can’t look at the statistics ourselves. But the authors do note “34% of Cubans having greater than 90% Caucasian ancestry, while another 15% of Cubans have less than 50% Caucasian ancestry.” It is an interesting coincidence that 15 percent of Cuban Americans do not identify as white (though only ~5 percent identify as Afro-Cubans). But with a sample size of 50 I wouldn’t make too much of this congruence. But let’s focus on the 1/3 who are 90 percent or more European. You can see from the bar plot that of these 15 or so only one or two come out as pure European. I’m willing to bet these are rare individuals where the whole ancestral lineage was present in Europe in 1900. The most obvious cases are those whose recent maternal and paternal lineages migrated from Spain, but Cuba also has Jews and other non-Iberian European populations. If the MESA data set was public we could investigate these possibilities easily in regards to this population, but to my knowledge it isn’t public. So we’re left with what the researchers themselves found interesting.

Why does any of this matter? A few years ago CNN anchor Rick Sanchez got fired over some controversial remarks, and basically tried to play the race card. Matthew Yglesias, who is 1/4 Cuban and 3/4 Jewish, pointed out that to all practical purposes Sanchez is just another white guy. Look at him! This is true of most Cuban Americans. And Cuban Americans themselves are highly white-identified, at least within the community. I make the last qualification because it seems clear that some white Hispanics identity-switch when directing arguments at non-Hispanics, because having a non-white background may bolster their credibility in some manner, and there has been a shift toward confounding Hispanic/Latino with non-white in the broader public (despite the explicit fact that Hispanic/Latino is a non-racial category).

But a more subtle point is that by American rules of hypodescent, where one drop of black African ancestry makes you African American, the vast majority of Cubans probably are non-white! Matthew Yglesias’ paternal grandfather, Jose Yglesias, had a father from Galicia. But Jose Yglesias’ mother was a native born Cuban, with origins not further specified. I believe that the most probable likelihood here is that she was a white Cuban, but with some African ancestry. Assuming ~10 percent African ancestry, then Matthew Yglesias is 1.25 percent African. This is of course supposition now, but I suspect that for various medical reasons Matthew Yglesias will get gentoyped in a few years, and his African ancestry will be evident. He will then likely find himself in the 5 percent of the American white identified population which has discernible recent African ancestry!

Image credits: Eva Mendes, Nicholas Genin, Rick Sanchez, David Berkowitz

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Human Genomics
MORE ABOUT: Race, white Hispanics
  • Beaumontmama

    I wonder if many Spaniards also have some African ancestry, though, especially those from southern Spain? I would expect that North Africans have some sub-Saharan ancestry and that many Spaniards have some North African ancestry. So, partial African ancestry may have originated either in Spain or Cuba?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #1, the IBS data set does indicate that a minority of spaniards have recent sub-saharan african ancestry, on the order of 1-2 percent. but it’s not enough to explain these patterns. in latin america the key is

    1) it’s wide spread (most mexicans 0-5 percent interval african ancestry)

    2) it’s usually often higher than the 1-2 percent found in the minority of spaniards

    phased analysis would clarify this (you can tell when the admixture occurred). but that’s for later.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    Even though Dominicans are a mixed population, I would imagine that many Americans (at least outside the New York area) think of them as black, due to all the dark-skinned Dominican MLB players.

    On a different note, I wouldn’t say that Matt Yglesias has “recent” black ancestry, as it would have had to be sometime before his great-grandmother’s generation.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @3
    “Even though Dominicans are a mixed population, I would imagine that many Americans (at least outside the New York area) think of them as black, due to all the dark-skinned Dominican MLB players.”

    I disagree. I think most people think of guys that look like ARod when they think of Dominicans (who is Dominican in heritage). To most Americans, latinos are just one broad swath of people who each have roughly 1/3 white, 1/3 Amerindian, and 1/3 African heritage. I’d bet most Americans would be shocked that Caribbean blacks are more “African” in heritage than African Americans.

    The notion of some latinos being almost entirely white or almost entirely black would be inconceivable to the average American. Most people have a very terrible conception of even rudimentary population genetics.

    “I make the last qualification because it seems clear that some white Hispanics identity-switch when directing arguments at non-Hispanics, because having a non-white background may bolster their credibility in some manner, and there has been a shift toward confounding Hispanic/Latino with non-white in the broader public (despite the explicit fact that Hispanic/Latino is a non-racial category).”

    The non-whiteness of Hispanics is usually emphasized (e.g. affirmative action), except when juxtaposed against other latinos or blacks for purposes of instigating racial animosity toward whites and lionizing blacks or other latinos.

    For example par excellence, see Trayvon Martin fiasco.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #3, if some researchers are correct, there is admixture (low levels) into south europe of subsaharan african on the order of ~10,000 years BP. others also detect admixture on the order of 1-2 thousand years BP (probably roman). finally, you have more recent admixture. so i put in a human genomic context:

    > 500 years = recent
    ~ 10,000 years = old
    10 K to 500 years in between

    you have different definitions for recent. honestly, i don’t really care, and don’t want to here more about that, since we agree on the same time frame.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    On a personal level I rather doubt if the bulk of Americans actually care if somebody is 5% or less something or other. I’m not sure I’d even bother to note something like that unless it was connected to a medical issue of some sort or a physical trait that was conspicuous.

    I would find something like that interesting from a scientific view point both because of what it tells about human population movements in past and what can be expected to happen in the future. I think its fascinating that the population of the EU is currently undergoing a major biological and cultural replacement.

    If the data is right the EU population will be mostly of recent middle eastern origin biologically and culturally in 50 years. Anyone hoping to find traces of relic genes needs to be doing their hunting now.

    Of course I might not be typical in my views either.

  • Miley Cyrax

    “If the data is right the EU population will be mostly of recent middle eastern origin biologically and culturally in 50 years. Anyone hoping to find traces of relic genes needs to be doing their hunting now.”

    Extrapolation is a tricky thing. Just when it looked like to some that the U.S. might become New Mexico, it’s been reported recently that net undocumented migration from Mexico hit zero. A positive development for the U.S., in my opinion.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    If the data is right the EU population will be mostly of recent middle eastern origin biologically and culturally in 50 years.

    what data? give me explicit citations, or give me model with explicit values for the parameters. eric kaufmann has the most thorough projections with realistic numbers i’ve seen it it looks like the upper bound is 25 percent (being generous).

    any follow up comment from you will include a citation, or an explicit simple mathematical model or a linear projection from cited empirical trends. if you respond but evade, i will ban you. if you don’t respond, i assume you are offering up your own opinion, which holds little weight with me. the citation itself has to be one which includes a model with parameters with values and some empirical basis in data. if not, it’s worthless.

  • Antonio Pedro

    Beaumontmama, to put things in broader context many Europeans have minor non-european ancestry. This would include diverse groups, such Scandinavians, Eastern Europeans (north and south) and Mediterranean Europeans. Cheers,

  • phanmo

    @ Razib re. #8

    Bravo!
    I hear a lot about this at the moment due to the presidential elections here in France but I have yet to hear any verifiable statistics. It’s unlikely to see any stats for France on ethnicity since, by law, the French government doesn’t acknowledge race or ethnicity, only nationality (http://www.insee.fr/en/ffc/docs_ffc/cs117e.pdf in English).

  • Charles Nydorf

    Thanks for #8

  • Onur

    I am specifically interested in how populations are formed and shaped by demographic movements and many other factors and how populations genetically homogenize or heterogenize over time. I think over the next few decades we will learn much about historical demographics, demographic movements and demographic dynamics in general thanks to the growing number of analyses, especially whole genome analyses, of both modern and ancient DNAs.

  • chris w

    #10, there have been some estimates by commercial agencies, although I certainly cannot vouch for their accuracy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_France#Ethnic_groups
    “Solis, a marketing company, recently estimated the numbers for ethnic minorities (immigrants and 2nd generation) in France in 2009 as 3.26 million Maghrebis (5.23%), 1.83 million Black people (2.94%, 1.08 million Sub-Saharan Africans and 757,000 French from French West Indies) and 441,000 Turkish (0.71%) .”

    If this is accurate, the percentage of visible minorities is similar to that of the U.S. in 1950. #6 would need to produce data showing that the differential between the European muslim birth rate and the ancestral European birth rate is so high that it compensates for the low numbers of the former. Although first generation immigrants often have higher fertility rates in their destination country compared to their home country, this map shows that European fertility rates are not necessarily the highest in the metro areas with large Muslim (or any visible minority) populations: http://i.imgur.com/cAu15.png Although I don’t have a source for this map, one can search for fertility rates by county in Wiki and find that it matches.

  • Matt H.

    the “American rules of hypodescent” are archaic and the use has rascist overtones. They are nonsense and should no longer be applied, except in a historical context.

  • Dm

    Historically, Cubans have had both awareness and acceptance of the fact that many white Cubans have somewhat mixed heritage. They were relegated to the lower ranks of the social hierarchy, and selected against as prospective spouses. The methodology of ranking definitely reflected a high level of familiarity with mixed-heritage families and must have stemmed from having observed their traits for generations if not centuries.

    The Cuban key word for implied part-African ancestry was “bad hair”. On the contrary, skin color has barely registered as a sign of mixed ancestry, unlike in historic US where once even olive-skinned Sicilians could have been classified as black. The hair is indeed a better proxy for the African admixture than the skin, so the fact that the Cubans came up with this proxy implies both strong history of thorough observation, and a high level of awareness in a substantially racist but at the same time strongly mixed population.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I hear a lot about this at the moment due to the presidential elections here in France but I have yet to hear any verifiable statistics. It’s unlikely to see any stats for France on ethnicity since, by law, the French government doesn’t acknowledge race or ethnicity, only nationality

    the gov. doesn’t collect, but some scholars have. you can find the data. some minorities, like the north africans, have higher TFR for immigrants than for their home countries. you can make rough & ready projections to give you a sense of range. i have not seen in any place a projection where france is majority middle eastern in 50 years. it is unlikely on the face of it because france is one nation where non-colored french have a relatively (if not replacement) fertility.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    . The hair is indeed a better proxy for the African admixture than the skin

    especially in the cuban context; amerindian ancestry could result in somewhat darker skin. OTOH, african hair form tends to have a ‘dominant’ effect, so can signal even minor ancestral component.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I disagree. I think most people think of guys that look like ARod when they think of Dominicans

    i’d like to see social science. bet you outside of the NYC area most americans have no idea about dominicans. probably think it’s somewhere people go on vacation (dominica :-)

    anyway, for most americans latino is fast becoming mexican american because of numbers. so the 1/3 african heritage does not hold.

  • pconroy

    @18,
    In NYC, from the Caribbean/Latinos I’ve met, Haitians are darker than Dominicans – being almost totally African for the most part. Dominicans are almost always darker than Puerto Ricans, and Puerto Ricans much darker than Cubanos.

    Basically the Cubanos I’ve met could mostly pass for White, or else very light African admixture.

  • Dm

    There is a lot of Dominicans in PR, and their looks typically stood out among most locals, who told me that the undocumented Dominicans tend to settle in historically Afro neighborhoods of San Juan, where they don’t attract as much attention.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #19, 20, well, look at the bar plots. confirms.

  • pconroy

    BTW, I’d put Jamaicans as similar to Dominicans – as in mostly African looking, with some lighter ones.

    While African-Americans would be lighter than Dominicans/Jamaicans, but darker than Puerto Ricans

  • Karl Zimmerman

    22 –

    I’d disagree. I’d say that the American cultural paradigm, which causes people with a minority of African admixture to appear “black” is in play here for you, but as a recent migrant from Europe, it shouldn’t be. Most Dominicans are pretty clearly more European than African in ancestry – it’s just that the U.S. norm for black skin is defined as several shades lighter than actual African black (with a few exceptions, like the Fulani, who are admixed themselves).

    A good reality check is is the “Obama skin test,” – given he’s a first-generation cross between a very dark-skinned and very light-skinned population. However, given Dominicans originate from a slightly darker West Eurasian population, and more importantly as Razib notes the minority of Amerind genes could also affect pigmentation, the average pigmentation could be significantly darker than Obama and still be an equal balance of West Eurasian and SSA.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    In NYC, from the Caribbean/Latinos I’ve met, Haitians are darker than Dominicans – being almost totally African for the most part. Dominicans are almost always darker than Puerto Ricans, and Puerto Ricans much darker than Cubanos.

    Having grown up in a Connecticut city with a big Puerto Rican population (my high school was about one-third Puerto Rican) and a smaller but non-insignificant number of Cubans, I would agree that Puerto Ricans are the darker of the two groups – with one proviso. That being the fact that very, very few of the Puerto Ricans looked fully black, while there were occasional black Cubans. I have no reason to believe that my hometown was unrepresentative in any way.

    BTW, I’d put Jamaicans as similar to Dominicans – as in mostly African looking, with some lighter ones.
    While African-Americans would be lighter than Dominicans/Jamaicans, but darker than Puerto Ricans

    I’m not sure I’d agree … almost all of the Jamaicans I’ve known, and there have been many, are physically indistinguishable from “ordinary” African-Americans. It’s pretty much the same for other English-speaking Caribbeans and for Haitians too.

  • pconroy

    @23 Karl,

    I disagree with your statement:
    “Most Dominicans are pretty clearly more European than African in ancestry ” – certainly not the Dominicans I know.

    A friend of mine is Dominican and he is way darker than Obama is – more like Eddy Murphy.

  • pconroy

    @24 Peter,
    There are always exceptions, I played Varsity Volleyball with a Haitian student, who was blue eyed, and very light skinned – I’ve never seen another Haitian like him.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    There are always exceptions, I played Varsity Volleyball with a Haitian student, who was blue eyed, and very light skinned – I’ve never seen another Haitian like him.

    Haiti has a small but influential mulatto population. Bill Clinton sent the U.S. military into Haiti in 1994 to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power because the Congressional Black Caucus was incensed that the (very light) mulatto general Raoul Cedras had deposed the black Aristide in a coup.

  • http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    As this post illustrates, describing the way the “American hypodescent rule” operates in practice as a “one drop rule” is a bit of rhetorical excess.

    Sociologically, American racial classification operates mostly on the basis of one’s appearance at a glance or in photo and one can have considerably more than “one drop” of non-European descent and still look “white” in the sense meant by American racial classification. One can probably “pass” as white at something on the order of 5% African descent, although since some genes matter more than others to appearance your mileage may vary.

    Certainly, the U.S. doesn’t meaningfully use categories like mulatto, quadroon, or octaroon in the way that societies that do not have a hypodescent rule do, Anyone in any of these categories if they appear non-white at all would be viewed as categorically “black” by non-blacks, and as light skinned black by blacks. The flip side of a lack of fine grading is a lack of a sociologically developed sense of the distinctions in close cases that appear in appearance. Any individual with only African and European descent is going to be pegged visually in one box or the other, and the line between one category and the other may actually be a bit higher than in a society that recognizes one or more intermediate categories, because classification visually is typically done with reference to mental Platonic ideals of each type.

    In daily life, few people know your ancestry, and even in cases where there is a formal examination or determination of someone’s ancestors from official records there are large numbers of cases of individuals with white mothers and cryptic paternity who are considered “white” if they can “pass” as white, and the extent to which a third party (or even the person in question) can determine their own geneology is limited now and has historically been worse, and there are going to be lots of cases where someone with a low percentage of African descent has some instance of a white mother and unknown paternity in their family tree (at least so far as official records and the knowledge of people in later generations is concerned). Maternal ancestry is often not very well known going back earlier than living generations, since name changing at marriage practices make it harder to do in practice.

    Also, in most of the Caribbean, mixed race Caribbean individuals who themselves look less African try to find marital partners who look less African to the extent feasible. So after multiple generations of this kind of selection, you would expect people with Afro-Carribbean descent with lower percentages of African descent to be more African than their appearance would suggest since invisible genetic markers of African descent aren’t nearly so strongly selected against in choice of co-parent.

  • http://reviewofcuban-americanblogs.blogspot.com Manuel A. Tellechea

    Most white Cubans that I know look whiter than Jimmy Carter.

  • Esther de Banes

    In the ’50’s, according to statistics of the period, 85% of Cubans where of European ancestry. The current Cuban revolution has also been responsible for bringing Africans to Cuban, specially during the Angolan war. I read years ago of children being offered to go to “summer camp” in Cuba, who were never repatriated home. There was an influx during these 53 years, of Africans into the island, presumably, to be trained and later on used for the “heroic wars of liberation” that the Castro brothers wanted to wage against “imperialism”. Being an island, what has gone on in the longest running dictatorship of the American Hemisphere, will be the stuff of alot of writing when the island and its recent history is finally open. Cuba’s current demographics attest to this. Compare the original ’50’s statistics and those of today, and question
    how the population changed.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    25 –

    When I made the statement that most Dominicans are plurality West Eurasian, I wasn’t basing it on conjecture. All admixture studies I’m aware of, including the one that Razib cites in this post, place the two close together but give a slight edge to West Eurasian. This study’s results were 50% West Eurasian, 43% SSA, and 6% Native American.

    Perhaps, however, the disjunction between perceived race and actual ancestry isn’t all subjective. It could be that the admixed population has existed for enough generations that there was some positive selection for darker skin in the tropical sun.

  • Marcie Soto

    So what is Barbara Walter and Harry Connick, Jr, passing themselves as these days? If you watch Harry Louis Gates’ “Finding Your Roots” on Sunday 8:00p you will be surprised. Not one single person on the program has a 100% white DNA (with the exception of Rick Warren this past Sunday). Not even African-Americans are 100% Black.

  • ryan

    >i’d like to see social science. bet you outside of the NYC area most americans have no idea about dominicans. probably think it’s somewhere people go on vacation (dominica

    That or they’d wonder why dominicans would look any different from franciscans.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I read years ago of children being offered to go to “summer camp” in Cuba, who were never repatriated home.

    where? (where did you read this)

    Most white Cubans that I know look whiter than Jimmy Carter.

    do you only know german cubans? :-)

    because the Congressional Black Caucus was incensed that the (very light) mulatto general Raoul Cedras had deposed the black Aristide in a coup.

    shows the power of social identity. the CBC is well loaded with light skinned mulattos. e.g., gk butterfield.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    On a very different note, but still involving racial mixing, it occurred to me that the first large generation of 1/4 Asian 3/4 white people are now reaching their teens and early adult years,* ages at which racial identification becomes more relevant. It will be interesting to see if they tend to self-identify as multiracial or as white. Given that Asian self-identification provides few or no affirmative action benefits they won’t have much incentive to identify as Asian.

    * = what with the liberalization of immigration laws in the 1960’s and the Vietnam War, I figure that many 1/2 Asian 1/2 white children were born starting around 1970. Many of them would now be old enough to have teenaged or young adult children of their own, and I’m assuming that a substantial portion of them have white spouses.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #35, in my circle of “in real life” friends there are two such individuals. no one knows of their asian background initially because they don’t volunteer it. so they are white identified if anything. though they aren’t ashamed of being asian or anything. just not that big of a deal in their social circles.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    It’s probably not a big deal in their social circles for a reason I touched upon: being Asian-identified doesn’t lead to many tangible affirmative action benefits.

  • bg

    It would be interesting to find the origin of the 5-alpha Reductase deficiency trait seen in some of the Dominican population.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @ 37

    Not only does it not lead to tangible AA benefits, it leads to affirmative action drawbacks, as described in the Espenshade and Chung 2005 paper, which found Asians to be at the equivalent of a 280 point disadvantage on the SAT vs. blacks, 235 disadvantage vs. latinos, and 50 point disadvantage vs. whites, when it comes to college admissions at top schools.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Peter,

    I think you’re really wrong here, on a couple of levels.

    1. I’m not sure that modern “quadroons” still identify as being black. I think over the last 20 years there has been a generational shift, shown by the growing number of interracial people, including black/white, who do not identify as being one race or another. I think that U.S. perceptions are still swayed by hypodescent – someone who is 50/50 is still clearly thought of as black. But someone who has a typical AA parent (who would have some white admixture already), and a white parent may not. Certainly, someone who is 1/4th would not be perceived as white in the U.S., but don’t think people put them into the black box anymore. Even as far back as middle school, I had a classmate who was 1/2 black, and another who was 1/2 Dominican (in a school with few Latinos), and although the SSA was clearly visible, no one perceived or treated either one as black.

    2. There’s plenty of cases of people only 1/4 something in terms of ancestry who embrace it despite having no governmental benefit. For example, when people discover one of their grandparents was actually Jewish. OTOH, people who are 1/4th Latino, despite there being Affirmative Action repercussions if they do embrace it, often consider themselves Anglo.

    3. I think the primary reason why it’s not a big deal when someone is 1/4th Asian is because most Americans just can’t tell. Can you tell Rob Schneider is 1/4 Filipino? How about Enrique Iglesias? How about Eddie Van Halen (1/4th Indonesian)? If you know what you’re looking for, you can see some traces in how each of them look, but to first glance, all would be within the normal range for “Whites,” and would not be perceived as multiracial in any way.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Certainly, someone who is 1/4th would not be perceived as white in the U.S

    depends on what they look like. rashida jones is 33 percent black ancestry,* but is white looking enough to play white role (or more accurately, nonracial) parts. she only becomes “black” after you know who her father is. in contrast to her sister, who looks similar, but falls on the “barely black” side of the line.

    * her dad was genotyped, but she is probably under 33 percent judging by her looks. but near enough 1/4

  • Ashton

    Ok Razib I just want to ask you a couple of questions and make some statements:

    1-) Is there any indication of the self identification of the people tested in the Cuban sample? You talk about White Cubans, however we are not seeing a “White Cuban” sample, but a Cuban sample in general. Is it news to you that there are folks in Cuba who are black, mestizo, mulatto? They migrated here too, and it seems some of the folks tested here were indeed what one would consider of mostly African descent.

    2-)You mention that you tested two White Cubans on your own. Could you please expand on that? Certainly it makes for an interesting case that you would conclude most White Cubans to be 10% African based on you testing 2 White Cubans.

    3-)How is this a good assumption: ” My working assumption is that these are not unrepresentative.” Really!!!! 50 Cubans mostly from the New York area are not unrepresentative of the White Cubans all around the US and in Cuba?

    4-)How do you know that the person who is 100% European on admixture has recent(i.e. Grandparents) European ancestry, or is this another one of your good assumptions?

    5-)How do you know that the 3 people who show African ancestry on the K=3 ADMIXTURE chart in the less than 1% range, and 0% Amerindian aren’t on the noise level? Adding to it, how do you know that the 6 other individuals who show a combined African+Amerindian score of less than 5% isn’t noise? You said yourself that the: ” That being said, I am moderately confident that their framework is able to pick up at least small proportions of African ancestry (<5 percent)" ,

    So it seems at least 10 people in the sample here are in the 0- less than 5% African. The point here, is that to assume that because 85% of Cubans identify as White, that 85% of this nonMiami sample ought the be White Cubans is just bogus. You know, I know it, and anyone with descent knowledge of statistic knows it. A more reasonable assumption would be that that 34% who is 90%+ Caucasian in the K=3 chart identify as White. Look it turns out 10/17(34% who are 90%+) have African admixture in what could be considered noise levels.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #42, you’re being a defensive asshole. you didn’t characterize all my assertions correctly, and aren’t arguing in good faith. so i’ve banned you. i’ll let the comment through as a warning to all the other assholes. i’ve been banning you so far, but you keep streaming in. also, “How do you know….” i have a lot of personal experience playing around with genotypes at various SNP densities with various populations now. i’m not going to recapitulate how i came to my intuitions to random assholes. time is finite.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com Peter

    Here is a most interesting picture which shows the effects of diminishing black ancestry. It shows the late singer Eartha Kitt, who was 1/2 white and 1/2 black (or mostly so, as she had some Native American background), her daughter Kitt McDonald, who is 1/4 black and 3/4 white, and her granddaughter Rachel Shapiro, who is 1/8 black and 7/8 white.

  • Doug1

    My impression of Dominicans is that most of them are more mixed than Cubans are, who tend to look either white or black, despite most white identifying Cubans having 5-10% black ancestry, as this small sample size study indicates. Judging simply by looks the Dominicans we have in New York look about 1/3 black and 2/3 white with a little Amerindian throw in. That sort of predominant racial mixture in a country seems to be rather unusual. Well perhaps Dominicans in NYC aren’t a representative slice for those back home.

  • french reader

    In france the proportion of non whites is a lot larger in the younger generations than in the general population.

    The french governmant does not release ethnic statistics (though they compile them) but it systematicaly screens for Sickle-cell disease any child born with at least one parent from african origins, that includes people from the caribeans, the maghreb and sub-saharan africa. They represent the vast majority of non whites in the country.

    the proportion of children screened for sickle-cell disease in the metropole (mainland france) was 28,45% for 2007.

    source:
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr%C3%A9panocytose#France

    Remember though that france has a high rate of intermarriage, so it’s not clear how many of these children have 1 or 2 non-white parents.

    This being said migration patterns depend on the situation of the economy as well as the demography in the emigrating countries.

    France is about to enter a very rough economic time and the maghreb countris have TFR that have decreased considerably. Also children with an imigrant background are slightly more likely to leave the country. (read that in a newspaper last year)

    A recent trend sees people back migrating to the country of their parents, usually after graduating from universities and qatar is reportedly very interested in hiring the arabic/french/english speaking youth coming out of french univeristies. In turn many of these people find it easier to live in a arabic muslim country.

    in other words the situation is complicated.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    The french governmant does not release ethnic statistics (though they compile them) but it systematicaly screens for Sickle-cell disease any child born with at least one parent from african origins, that includes people from the caribeans, the maghreb and sub-saharan africa.

    this seems misleading. from the citation used by wikipedia:
    In our neonatal screening programme, a newborn is defined as being at-risk for SCD when at least one parent originates from a region where the bS gene is prevalent due to the long-time presence of one of the founder genes (eg, Africa, India and the Mediterranean basin) or due to later population migration (box 1).
    http://jcp.bmjjournals.com/content/62/1/31.full.pdf+html

    in the citation within the citation on beta-globin genes they admit these variants are rare in places like sicily, but they exist at non-trivial proportions.

    i do value quantitative information. please make sure in the future it is more precise and clear. i was irritated that your assertion got muddier the more i dug into the citations, though perhaps i am not reading it correctly. if the screening includes people of mediterranean origin at the discretion of nurses that is going to inflate the proportion screened a fair amount considering how many southern european origin people reside in france, though i think your overall point is within the right quantitative range.nevertheless i dislike spurious precision.

    btw, do you agree with the original assertion that over 50% of france will be middle eastern in 50 years, and would you put money down on that proposition? (can review appropriate models and take a vote)

  • french reader

    1/sorry but i’m reading the french pdf found here

    http://www.jle.com/e-docs/00/04/3D/F4/telecharger.phtml?code_langue=fr&format=application/pdf&titre=Version%20PDF

    and it says page 6:
    le dépistage de la drépanocytose en France métropolitaine n’est pas systématique mais est effectué uniquement chez les nouveau-nés dont les parents appartiennent à un groupe à risque pour cette maladie (essentiellement Afrique, Antilles et Maghreb)

    translation:
    the screening for Sickle-cell disease in Metropolitan France is not systematic but only performed on newborns whose parents belong to an at-risk group for this disease (essentially Africa, Antilles and Maghreb).

    This is what i read and this is what i wrote. And it doesn’t say who is performing the screening.

    2/I don’t think it is wise to make demographic estimation for 50 years in the future, but that seems unlikely, first france has a high rate of intermarriage, second immigration from the maghreb isn’t gonna last for ever, 3rd you have to take into account emigration as well.
    That’s what i was trying to say.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #48, ah, i see.

  • xfinity

    I certainly have to question the veracity of the results based on other prior studies, as well as the seemingly flawed methodology. The results seem skewed when from the get go the major area where the vast majority of the Cuban community lives, Miami, is excluded; this also happens to be where the greatest concentration of white Cubans reside. Cubans, as Americans, come in all colors and creeds, and an accurate sample representation should have been used. I would expect this to be a larger concentration of the sample population to reflect Miami Cubans. I’ve previously seen studies conducted in Havana, (which along with Santiago de Cuba, and Guantanmo, have the largest mixed, non-white population in Cuba) based on much smaller snp’s demonstrate 5.8% african heritage in whites, and I would think this is much higher relative to the US Cuban population. Anecdotally, as a member of the 23andme community, I’ve seen the results of around 75 white Cubans from this company, and they seem to be white, and in general show only 4 to 5%, total non-European (African and Asian, which is where they lump their Amerindian), with around 95-96% European. Another interesting consideration for Cubans, as well as other Carribeans, is the large Canarian input in the parental population that populated Cuba. As seen in the results of an amateur geneticist, Dienkes, the Canarian population seems to have even higher African input than the general Spanish population, which will acount for some of the inherent African seen in Cubans. It would be interesting to see a study on Cubans based on their parental populations, and not using Americans from Utah as one of the proxy’s.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #50, wait, which studies? can you point them to me?

    Anecdotally, as a member of the 23andme community, I’ve seen the results of around 75 white Cubans from this company, and they seem to be white, and in general show only 4 to 5%, total non-European (African and Asian, which is where they lump their Amerindian), with around 95-96% European.

    prior updated. 4 to 5 percent is still a lot for north american whites though. so no qualitative change.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    , and in general show only 4 to 5%, total non-European (African and Asian, which is where they lump their Amerindian), with around 95-96% European.

    btw, we are not arguing over that many % points here. if the amount of amerindian is non-trivial you need to reduce the european percentage a bit, due to the weird asian/euro mix that that produces.

  • xfinity

    1) Yes, those average percents on 23andme; there are many Cubans who score 100% on the tests that commercial company runs. Actually, some of these Cubans do have parents or grandparents born in Spain or other European countries, but the majority did not, and seem to have just a vague knowledge of their antecedents other than they had been in Cuba a long time. The non-European 4-5% is a combination of African and Asian-and although the Asian is presumed Amerindian, it is also Han Chinese as there was a considerable (1-2%) Chinese population in Cuba since the early-to mid 19th century. Relative to other LatinAmerican countries, the Euro is quite high for Cubans-the other people who also I’ve seen score high in general are the Argentinians, Uruguayans, and Brazilians.

    2) The study I am mentioning is “Interactions between genetic admixture, ethnic identity, APOE genotype and dementia prevalence in an admixed Cuban sample; a cross-sectional population survey and nested case-control study”

    From the abstract:

    Background: The prevalence and incidence of dementia are low in Nigeria, but high among African-Americans. In these populations there is a high frequency of the risk-conferring APOE-e4 allele, but the risk ratio is less than in Europeans. In an admixed population of older Cubans we explored the effects of ethnic identity and genetic admixture on APOE genotype, its association with dementia, and dementia prevalence.

    Methods: A cross-sectional catchment area survey of 2928 residents aged 65 and over, with a nested case-control study of individual admixture. Dementia diagnosis was established using 10/66 Dementia and DSM-IV criteria. APOE genotype was determined in 2520 participants, and genetic admixture in 235 dementia cases and 349 controls.

    Results: Mean African admixture proportions were 5.8% for ‘white’, 28.6% for ‘mixed’ and 49.6% for ‘black’ ethnic identities. All three groups were substantially admixed with considerable overlap. African admixture was linearly related to number of APOE-e4 alleles. One or more APOE-e4 alleles was associated with dementia in ‘white’ and ‘black’ but not ‘mixed’ groups but neither this, nor the interaction between APOE-e4 and African admixture (PR 0.52, 95% CI 0.13-2.08) were statistically significant. Neither ethnic identity nor African admixture was associated with dementia prevalence when assessed separately. However, considering their joint effects African versus European admixture was independently associated with a higher prevalence, and ‘mixed’ or ‘black’ identity with a lower prevalence of dementia.

    Conclusions: APOE genotype is strongly associated with ancestry. Larger studies are needed to confirm whether the concentration of the high-risk allele in those with African ancestry is offset by an attenuation of its effect. Counter to our hypothesis, African admixture may be associated with higher risk of dementia. Although strongly correlated, effects of admixture and ethnic identity should be distinguished when assessing genetic and environmental contributions to disease risk in mixed ancestry populations.

  • Cuban guy

    Also I don’t know what you mean by “do you only know german cubans?” are you implying that Spaniard can only look Mediterranean? In Spain there are blond northern european looking Spaniard like Galician football player Yoel Rodriguez, and there are also red head like Galician actress Maria Castro.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Relative to other LatinAmerican countries, the Euro is quite high for Cubans-the other people who also I’ve seen score high in general are the Argentinians, Uruguayans, and Brazilians.

    no, this is the issue. you people are confused on my priors: argentinians are surprising low on euro admixture. there have been multiple studies on this now. this is just one of several studies now (i did a recent blog post on it, but can’t be bothered to find it):

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2009/12/how-argentina-became-white/

    if you are correct about cuban whites, they are very surprising white, considering how much african ancestral component there is in their overall population. at this point i would ask you: can you serve as a liason with 23andme cubans so i can analyze their genotypes with ADMIXTURE? i can tease apart the ancestral components better that way, and with more SNPs than the study above.

    re: your citation, thanks. (for readers: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2350/12/43)

    the main concern i have is the number of SNPs. it’s not that bad if very well crafted for ancestral components so distinct. but it makes me worried, so i’m going to email mark shriver and ask him what he believes the reliability is at the fine-grain we’re arguing about. as i said above, we are basically arguing over 4% or so.

  • xfinity

    No, you miss my point. I have seen on 23andme some Cubans who consider themselves white Cubans (and perhaps could have recent admixture but have not stated so when I’ve asked their backgrounds) and there are a few in the 10-12%. The majority seem to be around 95-96 Euro, and a large number are 97-99 Euro with some 100%. But my point was not that the population of Brazil etc is 100% Euro -clearly not; there are triracials, mulattoes etc in Brazil, as there are in Cuba, and in the Cuba diaspora population. My point is that unlike other Latin American countries, those that are considered white in these countries, as well as Cuba, seem to have an exceedingly Euro component in what is considered white in that country, and significantly different than those in other Latin American countries.
    I am not a poster, but a lurker by nature, , as I enjoy my anonymity, so I don’t feel comfortable announcing something like this on 23andme. But I will approach these people on an individual basis and see if I can get them to send you their data. Cross our fingers as it is not easy to get people to respond. Where should it be sent?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    My point is that unlike other Latin American countries, those that are considered white in these countries, as well as Cuba, seem to have an exceedingly Euro component in what is considered white in that country, and significantly different than those in other Latin American countries.

    can you clarify here? my point is that the median non-white ancestry in white brazilians (this is a VERY varied group, granted, from pure europeans in the far south, to more mixed people in the center) is on the same order as the cubans, and perhaps higher. similarly, if these results are trusted, argentineans are less white than white cubans (though that is more amerindian). this is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that cuba has such a large non-white population (unlike argentina). though it is less surprising in light of large waves of immigration into cuba.

    they can send their data to contactgnxp -at- -gmail- -dot- com

  • xfinity

    I can’t comment on that, because although I am a little familiar with some of the genetics of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, I do not know them well, and certainly could not tell you if studies on Argentina, etc. are representative of their populations, particularly of their white population; or if they are flawed in other ways. But this study I think is flawed as I’ve enumerated. My particular information is anecdotal, and is from 23andme where I have seen results from many Latin American countries, and I have been struck on how incongruent the results are of white Cubans, white Brazilians, white Argentinians compared to other Latin American countries which seem to have extremely few, if any, people with high euro percents to that seen in these countries. This is not unexpected due to the unfortunate racism that occured in Cuba, which was stricter than that seen in other countries; and as you rightly mention, there were large waves of immigration to Cuba, not just in the 20th century, but also in the 19th and to a lesser extent in the 18th century from Europe. Now, the Cuban diaspora is likely not an exact correlate with the Cuban population found in the island, as those that left the island tended to be more European, so again, I can only comment to you anecdotally what I have seen and also what I know regarding Cuba’s racial history.

  • Lydia

    I am also a 23andme Cuban-American with 97% European 2% Asian 1% North African with at 5 known least generations in Cuba on the maternal side and 4 on paternal side. No affirmative action either:)

  • xfinity

    Well, send in your data. I am one of the disliked 1% ‘ers, (not economically; 1% African, 99% Euro), but don’t tell the occupiers, I don’t want any protesters/tents on my lawn!

  • Lisette

    Okay I think the race issue regarding being white and/or Latino (Hispanic is an invented term that no one else in the world uses, they use Latino) are two separate issues. You can identify with both. Same as Prostestant, Irish or Jewish,,Italian etc AND being white and different shades of white. However if you are Cuban-American, generally you identify with the Latino population in many respects as well on a cultural level as far as the role of family. There is empathy and connection there on many immigration issues because Cubans remember coming to the US as a Latino and what that entailed even though most did not have the illegal alien issue, it is more like a “There for the Grace of God go I” in general among Cubans I know at least. We also also Spanish speaking.

    The acceptance of interracial marriage is a very new concept in the United States as well as in Cuba although races have always mixed regardless near large port cities and the opportunity to do so. Cubans may not have mixed as much as other Latin American countries but this does not mean they are more or less racist either. Cubans did not have a large indigenous population left to mix with by the time the largest migrations from Spain occurred in 19th century. Newly arrived immigrants just don’t start mixing with other people, they stick to their own for a generation or more but another wave of immigration from Spain brought new Spanish blood to Cuba in the early 20th century. South America had a few centuries more to do this because generally their indigenous population was intact in most places. Brazil is huge with many remote areas and was further away from more industrialized regions and was more isolated than Cuba as the gateway to the Americas. Besides Latin America sadly is pretty color coded as far as race goes with the mestizos GENERALLY falling in the middle, with the white generally in the top tier socio-economic brackets and the indigenous people the poorest. I say generally because there are exceptions and there are poor whites as well in all countries including the United States. This whole Trayvon Martin thing also has nothing to do with Latinos against blacks either, that’s something the media has seized on and run with as they tend to do.

    I do think that when Cubans first arrived there may have been some that tried a lttie too hard to differentiate themselves from other “Hispanics’ in the USA as being primarily white particularly if they were highly educated and had been professionals in Cuba. They did not want to be associated with the “other” uneducated group although they knew many educated people came from those countries they understood that most Americans did not and do not to this day know this. Most of us that left Cuba were not wealthy, there were some but not the rank and file Miami or New York Cubans. Many were professionals, college professors, accountants etc but few were plantation owners though as my father always said “If everyone who said they owned a plantation in Cuba actually did, Cuba would be the size of the US” or something like that. I think that we have been victims of stereotypes with the Elian Gonzalez focus and other stories that have captured the medias attention about those “crazy Cubans”

  • Jaime Pretell

    Razib, what is your source for 5% of White Americans having discernible African ancestry?

    “Among the thirty percent of Whites with African genetic admixture, the admixture ratio averages to about 2.3 percent, the equivalent of having a single ancestor of one hundred percent African genetic admixture from around the year 1880.”
    http://backintyme.com/essays/item/5

  • lyda

    xfinity: What do you have to do with 23andme? You actually seem rather proud of your 99% almost boastful:) My children actually think it is cool..but it is a very small percentage in the scheme of things and the whole 23andme concept is fascinating.

  • xfinity

    No, I didn’t mean it that way; I don’t think someone coming out 100% Euro is superior to me or anyone else, or that someone who comes out 100% Amerindian or African is superior to me or anyone else (although I’ve run across some people who are indiginous snobs and think so; and some Aframs I know have been quite militant about never considering marrying a white person). I was trying to show that the one Cuban poster wasn’t unique in having high Euro scores, and that there were more of us like her (that was one of the points I made in one of my notes above, that there are a lot of Cubans in the 97-99 range, which from what I’ve seen is high in Latin America and not seen commonly in many of the countries). The assertion had been made that white Cubans were 10% African based on two of Razib’s “white Cuban” friends (which I guess the presumption that would be perpetrated is that white Cubans are really “octoroons”, in other words we have the equivalent of a great grandmother who is 100% African; some of us might for all I know, but those of my acquaintance do not). But I don’t think so; I was showing that off the bat there are two of us (“Lydia” and I) with high Euro scores and had we been Razib’s friends, he would conclude that Cubans were high Euro scorers and not octoroons. It’s one thing when science shows after meticulous study that something is so, and another when science comes out with flawed results based on starting off with flawed data or using flawed methodology, and I think that is what I find irksome, as do other’s on this thread. As one of the posters rightly mention, Cubans come in all religions, all colors, and have inheritance from many different cultures/races, although Spanish is the dominant; we are often called “hispanics” which as a poster mentioned is a contrived lumping word. What binds us together is a language, and the conglomeration that formed a distinct, unique, and beautiful culture on our little island.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    It’s one thing when science shows after meticulous study that something is so, and another when science comes out with flawed results based on starting off with flawed data or using flawed methodology, and I think that is what I find irksome, as do other’s on this thread.

    can you chill on hectoring me about this? i’m kind of sick of listening about scientific methodology, i actually had real reasons as a bayesian for making the assertions i did. i’m not as stupid as you are portraying me on this issue (as should be clear in my above posts, i am more aware of the distribution of genetic variation in latin american whites than you are, just because i may be wrong about cuban whites based on my priors doesn’t mean it was bad methodology).

    and let’s not explore insinuations about why people believe what about their ancestry. it’s not productive. there are plenty of blogs to do that.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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