Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints

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Models that examine genetic differences between populations alongside a genotype–phenotype map can provide insight about phenotypic variation among groups. We generalize a simple model of a completely heritable, additive, selectively neutral quantitative trait to examine the relationship between single-locus genetic differentiation and phenotypic differentiation on quantitative traits. In agreement with similar efforts using different models, we show that the expected degree to which two groups differ on a neutral quantitative trait is not strongly affected by the number of genetic loci that influence the trait: neutral trait differences are expected to have a magnitude comparable to the genetic differences at a single neutral locus. We discuss this result with respect to population differences in disease phenotypes, arguing that although neutral genetic differences between populations can contribute to specific differences between populations in health outcomes, systematic patterns of difference that run in the same direction for many genetically independent health conditions are unlikely to be explained by neutral genetic differentiation.