Motivation: Population stratification is one of the major sources of confounding in genetic association studies, potentially causing false-positive and false-negative results. Here, we present a novel approach for the identification of population substructure in high-density genotyping data/next generation sequencing data. The approach exploits the co-appearances of rare genetic variants in individuals. The method can be applied to all available genetic loci and is computationally fast. Using sequencing data from the 1000 Genomes Project, the features of the approach are illustrated and compared to existing methodology (i.e. EIGENSTRAT). We examine the effects of different cutoffs for the minor allele frequency on the performance of the approach. We find that our approach works particularly well for genetic loci with very small minor allele frequencies. The results suggest that the inclusion of rare-variant data/sequencing data in our approach provides a much higher resolution picture of population substructure than it can be obtained with existing methodology. Furthermore, in simulation studies, we find scenarios where our method was able to control the type 1 error more precisely and showed higher power.

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Supplementary information:  Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.