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The Influence of Labor Market Changes on First-Time Medical School Applicant Pools

Cort, David A. PhD; Morrison, Emory PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000412
Research Reports

Purpose To explore whether the number and composition of first-time applicants to U.S. MD-granting medical schools, which have fluctuated over the past 30 years, are related to changes in labor market strength, specifically the unemployment rate and wages.

Method The authors merged time series data from 1980 through 2010 (inclusive) from five sources and used multivariate time series models to determine whether changes in labor market strength (and several other macro-level factors) were related to the number of the medical school applicants as reported by the American Medical College Application Service. Analyses were replicated across specific sex and race/ethnicity applicant pools.

Results Two results surfaced in the analyses. First, the strength of the labor market was not influential in explaining changes in applicant pool sizes for all applicants, but was strongly influential in explaining changes for black and Hispanic males. Increases of $1,000 in prevailing median wages produced a 1.6% decrease in the white male applicant pool, while 1% increases in the unemployment rate were associated with 4.5% and 3.1% increases in, respectively, the black and Hispanic male applicant pools. Second, labor market strength was a more important determinant in applications from males than in applications from females.

Conclusions Although stakeholders cannot directly influence the overall economic market, they can plan and prepare for fewer applications from males, especially those who are black and Hispanic, when the labor market is strong.

Dr. Cort is lead specialist in statistical analysis, Policy Research Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Dr. Morrison is director, Policy Research Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Funding/Support: Partial support for this research came from a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development research infrastructure grant, R24 HD042828, to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The data presented in this research are not reported at the individual level, and no identifying information is given; thus, ethical review was deemed unnecessary.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Cort, Association of American Medical Colleges, 655 K St. NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20001-2399; telephone: (202) 862-6087; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges