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A Multi-Methodological Approach to Estimating Ancestry and Sex in Asian Groups for Forensic Casework

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2020, $100,000)

Positive identification of unknown decedents is one of the primary goals of medicolegal death investigations. Identification efforts can be complicated in routine investigations of non-natural deaths and even more so in the event of mass deaths. Forensic anthropologists work with professionals in the medicolegal field to identify unknown decedents in these cases. Efficiency in obtaining positive identifications requires accurate methods for estimating the biological profile, including the age, sex, ancestry, and stature of the decedent. Current methods used in the United States are predominately based on individuals of European and/or African descent; as such, these methods do not produce accurate estimates of the biological profile for individuals who do not belong to these groups. The lack of variation in current methods is problematic in the United States as there has been increased migration over the last several decades. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of Asian immigrants in the U.S. increased 2,597% from 1960 to 2014, thus representing 30% of the U.S. foreign-born population. In fact, the Asian race category is the fastest growing population of any race category in the U.S. As Asian migration into the U.S. continues to rise, so will the need to create and utilize population-specific methods for estimating the biological profile of unknown decedents. Based on preliminary results, it is clear that current ancestry and sex estimation methods do not accurately classify Japanese individuals. To address this deficiency in current methods, this project aims to create a reference database for Asian populations to generate statistical models that will aid in the accurate estimation of sex and ancestry of unknown decedents. This project will incorporate four data types, including craniometrics, cranial nonmetrics and macromorphoscopics, odontometrics, and dental morphology. Data will be collected from Japanese, South Korean, and Thai skeletal populations. The samples will be used to create a reference database of Asian cranial and dental metric and nonmetric data, which will then be used to build publicly available models for estimating the ancestry and sex of individuals from these groups. By creating biological profile estimation models based on all four data types commonly used by professionals in the field, this project has the potential to significantly and positively impact the identification process within forensic anthropology, criminal justice, and the medicolegal system.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 18, 2020