In child health studies, sex and age are characteristics commonly reported because of their obvious importance in growth and development and because they are easily determined. Race is a third characteristic which may be related to health (eg, sickle cell disease) but which is not only more difficult to ascertain for the individual child, but which is less clearly defined.
Frequently a child's race is whatever his parents may choose to call it, usually by marking the appropriate box in a questionnaire. This procedure may be resented by parents who do not fully understand why they are being asked to state their race. With this in mind, observation and recording of the child's skin color during his visit (by an individual who has had no special training) is offered as a useful alternative to the usual procedure. Noting the child's skin color can be shown to yield very nearly the