Diversity Declined at Medical Schools Barred From Considering Applicants’ Race

Report: “Racial Diversity in the Medical Profession: The Impact of Affirmative Action Bans on Underrepresented Student of Color Matriculation in Medical Schools”

Authors: Liliana M. Garces, assistant professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University at University Park, and David Mickey-Pabello, doctoral student in sociology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Summary: The study, published in the March/April issue of The Journal of Higher Education, attempts to gauge how medical schools’ enrollments have been affected by bans on race-conscious admissions. The six states that were the researchers’ focus included Texas, where a 1996 federal-court ruling had the effect of barring race-conscious admissions at colleges for several years, and Florida, where the state-university system’s governing board eliminated race-conscious admissions in 2000. The researchers also looked at four states where voters approved referenda prohibiting public agencies, including public medical schools, from granting preferences based on race.

To differentiate the effects of the bans from other possible influences on minority matriculation at medical schools, the researchers took into account enrollment trends at medical schools in states without such bans. They also examined enrollments at private medical schools, which the bans did not cover.

The study concludes that the bans caused a 17-percent decline in the share of first-time matriculants to public medical schools who were black, Hispanic, or Native American, a figure in keeping with studies of the impact of such bans on selective undergraduate programs, graduate programs, and law schools.

Based on their analysis of enrollment figures, the researchers did not find any evidence to suggest that underrepresented minority students had switched to private medical schools in the affected states.

Holistic admissions processes that consider proxies for race or disadvantage were found to have failed to prevent declines in underrepresented minority enrollments.

Bottom Line: Bans on race-conscious admissions clearly have hurt the field of medicine’s efforts to become more diverse.

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