To Diversify Med Schools, Focus on Family Income

New study finds that Black and Latinx medical students tend to come from the top quintiles of family income.

April 4, 2022
Association of American Medical Colleges

The top 5 percent of family incomes and the top quintile are overrepresented among medical students, including Black and Latinx medical students, a new study has found.

The study, published by the JAMA Network, found that of 44,903 medical students, 50.5 percent belonged to the top quintile of households and 24 percent belonged to the top 5 percent. This was true regardless of the students’ race and ethnicity. “Significant attention has been rightfully directed toward racial-, ethnic-, and gender-based diversity in medical schools, with little mention of socioeconomic diversity, which is a less visible form of diversity,” the paper says.

“Achieving demographic representation among physicians is a widely accepted ideal, but recent studies have shed light on the absence of progress with respect to race and ethnicity. Our findings suggest that underlying the lack of progress may be the inaccessibility of the profession to low-income students, who, owing to powerful historical and contemporary forces, like structural racism, are disproportionately students who identify as Black or Hispanic,” the paper added. “A low socioeconomic status significantly decreases the likelihood that a student who is interested in medicine will apply or gain acceptance into medical school.”

Further, “medical schools can assess socioeconomic disadvantage during the admissions process using essays and validated tools on the application server, like the parental education and occupation indicator. Likewise, common metrics, such as grade point average and Medical College Admission Test scores, can be adjusted for socioeconomic disadvantage. Long-term solutions will require upstream engagement, including community partnerships and targeted investments in pipeline programs.”


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