Glossary of Terms

Self-reported Identity: We asked the study participants to identify the terms that New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent use to describe themselves. The terms they most frequently listed were Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican, Mexican American, Spanish, and Nuevomexicano.

NMS: New Mexican(s) of Spanish-speaking descent.

Continental Ancestry (commonly referred to as "genetic ancestry"): The proportion of a person's ancestors that came from Europe, the Americas, and Africa.

We estimated continental ancestry from genetic markers collected from mouthwash samples provided by study participants. The estimates involved comparison of the DNA markers from the study participants to DNA markers in reference populations from Europe, the Americas and Africa.

We chose these continental categories because they reflect intermarriage between Native Americans and people that came to the US from Europe and Africa beginning around 500 years ago. Since our reference samples only include populations from Europe, the Americas, and Africa, our estimates are only a partial description of continental ancestry in NMS.

Other limitations of continental ancestry testing are provided by the National Institutes of Health:

"Genetic ancestry testing has a number of limitations. Test providers compare individuals’ test results to different databases of previous tests, so ethnicity estimates may not be consistent from one provider to another. Also, because most human populations have migrated many times throughout their history and mixed with nearby groups, ethnicity estimates based on genetic testing may differ from an individual’s expectations. In ethnic groups with a smaller range of genetic variation due to the group’s size and history, most members share many SNPs, and it may be difficult to distinguish people who have a relatively recent common ancestor, such as fourth cousins, from the group as a whole."

View a video on how we collected DNA

Body Mass Index: Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. (Definition from the CDC).

Income: We asked participants about their household income, the total amount earned by all people who live in their home. They were ask to choose from the following categories:

  • Less that $5,000
  • $5,000 through $11,999
  • $12,000 through $15,999
  • $16,000 through $24,999
  • $25,000 through $34,999
  • $35,000 through $49,999
  • $50,000 through $74,999
  • $75,000 through $99,999
  • $100,000 and greater

Education: We asked participants how much formal schooling they had completed. They were ask to choose from the following categories:

  • Some high school or less
  • High school graduate or GED
  • Some college/technical or vocational school/Associate's degree
  • Four-year college graduate
  • Some postgraduate courses/advanced or professional degree

Biomarker: An indicator of a biological state or condition. Often, biomarkers are measures of biological substances found in blood or other bodily fluids, such as cholesterol count or a hormone level. However, other characteristics, such as blood pressure or weight, can also be considered biomarkers.

Some of the biomarkers in this study were measured from dried blood spots. For more information about this kind of analysis, please see McDade, Williams, and Snodgrass -- What A Drop Can Do (Demography 44, 2007)

Skin color: The color of skin comes mostly from the combination of melanin, which adds brown tone, keratin, which adds yellow tone, and blood, which adds pink tone, that can been seen on the surface of skin. We measured skin color as skin reflectance, the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light that is reflected by skin. The less UV light is reflected, the lighter skin appears.

We measured skin color because it may play a role how people view themselves and are viewed by others with regard to group membership. Skin color has been shown by other researchers to vary in Hispanics in different regions of the United States. It has also been shown previously to be associated with patterns of health risk in Hispanics.

How We Collected DNA Samples

How We Collected Blood

How We Processed Collected Blood