Bans on affirmative action decreased diversity in physician workforce

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A new study, which analyzed United States medical school enrollment data, found the amount of minority students enrolled in medical schools located in states with affirmative action bans were significantly lowered compared to states without the bans. A finding that, according to researchers, presents implications for diversity among physicians and health equity.

The study was published in the American College of Physicians and was conducted by researchers from University of California, Los Angeles,  University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and Harvard University. The researchers used public data on state affirmative action bans and analyzed minority enrollment rates at 21 public medical schools in states with affirmative action bans between the years of 1985 and 2019. Researchers then compared the minority enrollment of schools with these bans with enrollment data from 32 medical schools in states without the bans.

The study’s results showed that five years after state bans were implemented, there was a 4.8 percent drop in the  medical schools’ enrollment of underrepresented students. In contrast, between the same five years, state schools without affirmative action bans had a 0.7 increase in minority student enrollment.

This study indicates that state bans on affirmative action reduced the percentage of racially and ethnically underrepresented students enrolled in the states’ public medical schools. According to the authors, this reduction in minority medical students contributes to healthcare inequity as it reduces the number of minority physicians, who have been shown to improve the care of patients from historically underserved communities.