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Acad Med. 2015 Jul;90(7):953-60. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000653.

The Role of Socioeconomic Status in Medical School Admissions: Validation of a Socioeconomic Indicator for Use in Medical School Admissions.

Author information

D. Grbic is lead research specialist, Policy Research Studies, Research and Data Programs, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC. D.J. Jones is senior associate dean for admissions, professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology, and executive director, Health Science Pipeline Programs, University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas. S.T. Case is associate dean for medical school admissions and professor of biochemistry, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi.



Socioeconomic status (SES) impacts educational opportunities and outcomes which explains, in part, why the majority of medical students come from the upper two quintiles of family income. A two-factor SES indicator based on parental education (E) and occupation (O) has recently been established by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This study validates this two-factor indicator as applicable to the national pool of medical school applicants.


The AAMC SES EO indicator classifies applicants into five ordered groups (EO-1 through EO-5) based on four aggregated categories of parental education and two aggregated categories of occupation. The EO indicator was applied to the 2012 American Medical College Application Service applicant pool. The authors examined the associations that the EO category had with six additional and independent indicators of socioeconomic (dis)advantage, as well as with demographic and educational characteristics and life experiences.


The EO indicator could be applied to 89% of the 2012 applicants. The lower the EO category, the stronger the association with each of the six indicators of socioeconomic disadvantage. Other notable, but weaker, associations with the EO indicator were differences by age, race/ethnicity, performance on the Medical College Admission Test, community college attendance, and certain self-reported life experiences.


The EO indicator provides a simple, intuitive, widely applicable, and valid means for identifying applicants from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. This affords admissions committees an additional factor to consider during the holistic review of applicants in order to further diversify the medical school class.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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