BACKGROUND: We have shown that low nephron number (Nglom) is a strong determinant of individual glomerular volume (IGV) in male Americans. However, whether the same pattern is present in female Americans remains unclear. The contributions of body surface area (BSA) and race to IGV in the context of Nglom also require further evaluation. METHODS: Kidneys without overt renal disease were collected at autopsy in Mississippi, USA. The extremes of female Nglom were used to define high and low Nglom for both sexes. Nglom and IGV were estimated by design-based stereology. A total of 24 African and Caucasian American females (n = 12 per race; 6 per Nglom extreme) were included. These subjects were subsequently matched to 24 comparable males by age and Nglom and to 18 additional males by age, Nglom and BSA. RESULTS: IGV average and variance were very similar in female African and Caucasian Americans with high and low Nglom. Males with low Nglom from both races showed greater IGV average and variance than comparable females matched by age and Nglom. These differences in IGV between sexes were not observed in Caucasian Americans with low Nglom that were matched by age, Nglom and BSA. In contrast, glomeruli from African Americans were larger than those from Caucasian Americans, especially in subjects with high Nglom. CONCLUSIONS: While female Americans with low Nglom did not show glomerular hypertrophy, comparable males with low Nglom showed marked glomerular hypertrophy that was closely associated with high BSA. Glomerular size in African Americans may be confounded by multiple additional factors.