Socioeconomic diversity of medical school students has dropped: Study

The percentage of U.S. medical school applicants and graduates coming from higher-income households is increasing, according to a study published May 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A team led by researchers at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University School of Medicine conducted the study, assessing the income distribution of medical school applicants and graduates between 2014 and 2019. Researchers used deidentified data from the American Medical College Application Service for their analysis.

"We found that over that time period, the percentage of applicants to medical school who came from households with an annual income of $200,000 or more increased, while students who came from families with income less than $75,000 decreased by the same rate," lead author Mytien Nguyen, an MD-PhD student at Yale School of Medicine, said in a news release.

The same trend was seen among medical school graduates, researchers said. They also found a correlation between household incomes and the likelihood of being accepted into medical school. Applicants from families that earned less than $50,000 a year were half as likely to be accepted to medical school as those whose families were in the highest income bracket (earning more than $200,000 a year). 

"Our findings suggest that money has a strong influence on students' ability to apply to and ultimately attend medical school, and it raises the question as to whether we really have a meritocracy or does privilege buy entry into the medical profession?" said senior author Dowin Boatright, MD, formerly of Yale School of Medicine and now vice chair of research in the emergency medicine department at New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York City.

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