Recent studies have highlighted the potential of analyses of genomic sharing to produce insight into the demographic processes affecting human populations. We study runs of homozygosity (ROH) in 18 Jewish populations, examining these groups in relation to 123 non-Jewish populations sampled worldwide.
The high correlation between 1950s consanguinity levels and coverage by long ROH explains differences across populations in ROH patterns. The dissection of ROH into length classes and the comparison to consanguinity data assist in understanding a number of additional phenomena, including similarities of Jewish populations to Middle Eastern, European, and Central and South Asian non-Jewish populations in short ROH patterns, relative lengths of identity-by-descent tracts in different Jewish groups, and the "population isolate" status of the Ashkenazi Jews.
By sorting ROH into 3 length classes (short, intermediate, and long), we evaluate the impact of demographic processes on genomic patterns in Jewish populations.
We find that the portion of the genome appearing in long ROH - the length class most directly related to recent consanguinity - closely accords with data gathered from interviews during the 1950s on frequencies of consanguineous unions in various Jewish groups.