The aim of this study was to determine whether the protein tyrosine phosphatase nonreceptor 22 (PTPN22) C1858T polymorphism confers susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in populations with different ethnicities. A meta-analysis was conducted on the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism involving eighteen studies, which in total contained 20344 RA patients and 21828 controls. Meta-analysis revealed an association between the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism T allele and RA in all subjects (odds ratio [OR] = 1.637, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.514-1.770, P < 0.001). After stratification by ethnicity, analysis indicated that the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism T allele was significantly associated with RA in Europeans and Non-Europeans (OR = 1.587, 95% CI = 1.486-1.696, P < 0.001; OR = 1.748, 95% CI = 1.274-2.398, P < 0.001). Meta-analysis of the CT + TT genotype showed the same result patterns as that shown by the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism T allele. Furthermore, a direct comparison between rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive and -negative subjects revealed a significant association with the T allele in RA patients with RF, but not in subjects without RF. In conclusion, this meta-analysis confirms that the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism is associated with RA susceptibility in different ethnic groups, especially in Europeans, and the PTPN22 C1858T polymorphism T allele is significantly more prevalent in RF-positive patents than in RF-negative patients.