In the last article I focused on diversity and applicants’ socioeconomic status (SES) correlation with the MCAT. This time we will discuss SES and the overall GPA. Gleaning information from the last article we’ve already discussed the following:
- The AAMC and the TMDSAS both have found a trend, the higher the students’ family income bracket the higher their mean MCAT score.
- Just over 75% of the accepted medical students come from families in the upper two quintiles (income brackets).
- Less than 10% of the accepted medical students will come from families in the lower two quintiles (income brackets).
- This trend has been pervasive, but not for the lack trying from the AAMC and medical schools continual attempt at intervention with the introduction of SES consideration & holistic interviews.
-We also most mind the logical caveats in the data:
- Averages don’t equate to a snapshot of any one applicant; SES isn’t fate, either in a positive or negative light.
- Not qualifying for SES status necessarily guarantee both familial support financial and emotionally. I was in this boat, long story short in college I never qualified for SES consideration because of my parents income that I never tapped into. Regardless, I slaved away like everyone else healthy GPA and MCAT score, fund my ability to work for free (volunteering), applications etc.
- We can’t use these numbers to correlate with who works harder, and there will be variations in applicants regardless of SES that would appear within any pool.
This time we will examine the talking point data presented by the AMCAS and TMCAS to examine the following questions:
- Is there any correlation with SES and GPA?
- How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.
This time we’ll focus on the Texas equivalent of the AAMC, the TDMSAS applicant joint study talking points and data. For the applicants and accepted, the TDMSAS broke down SES into three categories: parental education & relationship, household (wealth, household size), and hometown (inner city and rural etc.) considerations. For our conversation, we will limit our time to talk about the applicants. Lastly, those who scored more points ranked higher on the SES scale, the higher your SES rating the higher your grade ranging from SES A-D — getting an A wasn’t a good thing.
1. Is there any correlation with SES and GPA? By graphing the aggregated data supplied to us by the X, we get a graph like so:
In general, since they’ve started to consider SES there are several short term trends. Overall, over the years everyone has gotten higher GPAs however those with less SES (higher parental income and education etc.) consideration fared better in their overall GPA. The average currently shows a trend of groups SES B & C besting (higher incomes) always trumping group SES A (most SES consideration by points). Interestingly, the lowest effected by SES had the most variability in scores, however note that this group always either floats near the performance of groups SES B & C, this group also has the highest average GPA overall. In other words, there is a correlation with GPAs and SES status.
2. How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.
|*2008 Estimations to nearest whole percent.*Other races not included because values not given, so values may not total to 100%||Percent of Total Applicant Pool||SES-A (4% of Applicant Pool)||SES-B (~10% of Applicant Pool)||SES-C (~25% of Applicant Pool)||SES-D (~remaining 61% of Applicant Pool)|
From the chart above we can see that the lowest SES, SES-A, only made up a measly 4% of the applicants in the 2008 cycle whereas the the top two categories (low SES score) made up over 75% of the applicant pool. Caucasian Americans (a mixture of ethnic groups) are the most likely to be in the upper two brackets, however note there are certainly Caucasian Americans qualifying for SES status — in fact, just over 1 in 4 of those with the highest rating of SES were in Caucasian Americans in the TMDSAS — as a whole this is a diverse group economically. Asians are listed as a conglomerate, from Chinese, Vietnamese to Pakistani, therefore it’s really hard to say much about “Asians” because it’s too broad of an ethnic category. Never the less, all we can really say is that Asians are also a diverse group, and should not be excluded from the SES conversation — in the lowest income bracket (SES-A) by percent alone Asian Americans qualified as much as African American applicants. African Americans and Latino Americans (another conglomeration) have the least applicants by percentage applying in the upper two (low SES scores) groups C & D, with only 3% and 7% of African American and Latino American applicants’ families qualifying for SES-D respectively. In other words, SES is a multi-racial issue and all races would likely benefit from its application.
In conclusion, the AAMC and the TMDSAS both recognize that there is a correlation between SES status and academic performance (MCAT & GPA). The AAMC also acknowledges that there is currently a disparity, or lack of diversity, in terms of the financial backgrounds of their applicant pool — this lack of diversity in the applicant pool eventually translates to financial skew of matriculates towards the upper income brackets (and parental education). In response to this reality, the SES is considered by medical colleges as a purview of legitimate holistic review. However, despite genuine efforts to diversify in this area, there hasn’t been much change in the financial portrait of students — in the next, and hopefully final article on the issue, we will discuss some reasons possibly why.
No matter if you agree or not, data is data; and it happens to be the data medical schools take under consideration.
I have been asked, “Why is diversity even a subject of discussion for the inclusion criteria of medical school at all?”
So, I’ve decided to take some time to write an article (or two) about diversity in the AMCAS/AAMC process, and speculate as to why diversity is an important selection factor. The assumed priori against the inclusion of financial diversity as an selection factor is that all applicants have equal access and opportunity; in other words in a perfect world it’s challenge of brain versus brain and we all start off on equal footing.
1) Parental income is positively correlated with applicant MCAT average scores in both the AMCAS and TMCAS (not shown, you can find the trend here), the more income the higher the score is the trend.
We see a rather straight forward trend with the data from the AAMC, the more well off the applicants’ parents the more on average you could expect their MCAT score to be. Of course, this doesn’t mean well off in the EO-5 will score higher nor does it mean their parents will be all that supportive either. The vice versa is also true, you can be in the EO-1 and still destroy the MCAT — it’s just that either way would “buck” the trend projected here. Long story short, the more money your parents have the more likely you are to have a higher average score — we should also note that the applicants with very elite parents (EO-5)enjoyed a comfortable average around the accepted MCAT score level (around 31 in 2012).
2. Graphing the application year versus average GPA scores we see a subtle creep in grades. Overall, applicants and matriculants have higher GPAs every year; assuming individual effort is equitable, there’s a trend of the more affluent (SES D) achieving higher GPAs versus their poorer friends (SES A).
Interestingly, there is also a slight but definite change upward movement in both the applicants and accepted over a 10 year period. While there are likely other factors (such as re-applicants), we can then start to wonder is everyone getting smarter or is the application pool just trending more towards the EO-5 group. We can only wonder what the new MCAT will do to scores.
3) There is a trend that accepted students are growing part of the upper class (US census data):
The AAMC states that the median income for applicants’ parents was $57,000 in 1987, it is now $100,000 — even with inflation, this is a remarkable growth. As we can see from the image furnished by AAMC, there hasn’t the bottom financial quintile of applicants has barely increased at all, whereas the top quintile are pouring into acceptance bliss. This can be reflected by merely looking at the next figure, this figure demonstrates the national average of the make up of applicants’ financial standing:
From the graph above we can see that there really isn’t all that much “financial diversity” in the economic standing in the make up of the average medical school class. Around 50% of the class is expected to be at least in the highest quintile. around 10-15+% in the fourth quintile, ~10-15% for the second quintile, and 2-5% in the lowest quintile. Though, not shown here, it should be noted that many colleges also trended towards similar break downs in parental income. Therefore it’s not as if medical schools are trying to build their ranks with wealthier applicants, it’s just happens that survivors from the premed hunger games are the more wealthy.
So, for what it is, the data suggests that parental income is positively correlated with applicant MCAT average scores in both the AMCAS and TMCAS (see link), the more income the higher the score is the trend. There is some reports not discussed here that finances are positively correlated with successful completion of college degrees in the US. There is evidence that there is a difference between applicants when it comes to finances and it’s effects, therefore it’s warranted that socioeconomic standing is indeed an area worth it to diversify in if physicians are truly one day to mirror the cut of society they serve; because at this time there isn’t all that much diversity in income and it’s getting worse.
It would be inappropriate to assume that money buys success or hard work. I can guarantee you everyone in medical school worked for it, but this story isn’t medical students it’s about the applicant pool. Instead,
Part 2: the effect of SES status, diversity and GPAs