Purpose 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. Method 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. Results 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. Conclusions 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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas