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Diversity Efforts in Biomedical Fields Don’t Benefit All Groups, Study Finds

Efforts to increase the representation of minority groups in biology, chemistry, and medicine in the last five decades have not benefited all groups equally, and successful diversity campaigns in one field can have the unintended consequence of confounding similar efforts in other fields, according to a study to be published in the November issue of the journal Academic Medicine.

The study examined the effects of diversity efforts in two eras: 1968 to 1989, when institutions employed race-conscious admissions policies, and 1990 to 2009, when institutions shifted to purportedly race-neutral policies that placed economic disadvantage on the same footing as characteristics including gender, race, and ethnicity. The study labeled the two periods “the affirmative-action era” and “the diversity era,” respectively.

While representation of African-Americans increased between the two periods in all three fields, the representation of Hispanics declined in all three fields. Efforts to increase diversity in those fields “do not necessarily benefit all groups via increased representation,” the study’s authors concluded. “Moreover, successful diversity initiatives in one science field can have the unintended effect of reducing representation in other science fields, creating competition for the same students.”

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