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Monday, May 21, 2012

Asians in Medical School: Who are they?

Asians constitute 23% of U.S. Allopathic medical students despite accounting for only 5% of the total population.  Who are these people?

1. Asian medical students are, by and large, children of highly educated immigrants.   

Taken from https://www.aamc.org/download/142770/data/aibvol9_no10.pdf
61% of Asian medical students had a father who has a graduate degree, compared to 52% for whites and 37% for Black and Hispanic students.  Asian medical students were also least likely to have a father who didn't finish college (only 16%).  Combined with the fact that 90% of U.S. Asians are either foreign born or have a parent who is foreign-born, we can deduce that Asians in medical schools are generally the children of high-skill immigrants.  Some of these students were born in Asia and then moved to the U.S.; some were born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Asia. 

2. Asian medical students tend to come from high income families, similar to Whites.

Taken from http://01f21cf.netsolhost.com/underserved/higher_income_distribution.htm
The above chart is a few years old.  We see that the parental income distribution of of Asians (Both Indian/Pakistani and All Asian)  are skewed to the right and is similar to the parental income distribution of Whites.  Interestingly, Vietnamese medical students come from families with an average income lower than that of Black medical students.  The tendency for Asian medical students to come from high-income families is perhaps expected given the high level of parental education attainment.

3. Although Asian medical students overall tend to have highly educated parents, the relative advantage of having highly educated parents is smallest in Asians.

This fact is not immediately apparent from the raw data, as Asian medical students have on average the highest socioeconomic background of all races.  

If we assume that educational level distribution of population at large shown in the above table roughly holds true for people who have medical school age children, we can calculate that Asians with graduate-school educated fathers have 7.3 times higher probability of going to medical school than Asians whose parents don't have college degrees.  [Calculation method: (61/24)/(16/46)=7.3  grad-school educated 24% of the fathers produce 61% of medical students, while 46% non-college fathers produce 16% of medical students]  This ratio is 13.4 for Whites, 13.7 for Blacks, and 17.2 for Hispanics.  It is 14.95 for the population as a whole.   

Conversely, we can say Asians with fathers without college degrees are least disadvantaged in getting into medical school compared to students of other races with fathers without college degrees.  Combined with the general over-representation of Asians in medical schools, we can conclude that Asian students are substantially more likely to overcome low parental educational attainment to become medical students. 

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