To test the hypothesis that Alu and L1 elements are genetic characters that are essentially homoplasy-free, we sequenced a total of five human L1 elements and eleven recently integrated Alu elements from 160 chromosomes (80 individuals representing four diverse human populations). Analysis of worldwide samples at L1 loci revealed 292 segregating sites and a nucleotide diversity of 0.0050. For Ya5 Alu loci, there were 129 segregating sites and nucleotide diversity was estimated at 0.0045. The Alu and L1 sequence diversity varied element to element. No completely or partially deleted Alu or L1 alleles were identified during the analysis. These data suggest that mobile element insertions are identical by descent characters for the study of human population genetics.