The -173 G/C polymorphism in the macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) gene has been implicated in susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but the results are inconclusive. The present meta-analysis aimed to investigate the overall association between the -173 G/C polymorphism and IBD risk. We searched in Pubmed, and Embase for studies evaluating the association between the -173G/C gene polymorphism and IBD risk. Data were extracted and statistical analysis was performed using Revman 5.1 and STATA 12.0 software. A total of seven publications involving 4729 subjects (2282 IBD cases and 2447 controls) were included in this meta-analysis. Combined analysis revealed a clear association between this polymorphism and IBD susceptibility (OR = 1.48, 95% CI: 1.10–2.00, p = 0.009 for CC vs. CG + GG). Subgroup analysis by ethnicity showed that the IBD risk associated with the -173G/C gene polymorphism was significantly elevated among Asians (OR = 1.79, 95% CI: 1.08–2.96, p = 0.02), but not among Caucasians. Subgroup analysis by disease suggested that the -173G/C gene polymorphism is a risk factor for ulcerative colitis (OR = 1.62, 95% CI: 1.10–2.37, p = 0.01), but that it was not associated with Crohn’s disease. This meta-analysis suggests that the -173 G/C polymorphism in the macrophage MIF gene contributes to IBD susceptibility, specifically in Asian populations. Further studies are needed to validate these findings.