Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Academic Public Health: 20-Year Update

Melody S. Goodman, Christine M. Plepys, Jemar R. Bather, Rita M. Kelliher, Cheryl G. Healton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study is a follow-up to an examination of the racial/ethnic composition of public health students (1996) and faculty (1997) at schools of public health that was conducted 20 years ago. We examined data on the race/ethnicity of students, graduates, and faculty among Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH)–member institutions during 2016-2017 and how these data have changed in the past 20 years. Methods: We obtained data on the race/ethnicity of students (in 1996 and 2016), graduates (in 1996 and 2016), and faculty (in 1997 and 2017) at ASPPH-member institutions from the ASPPH Data Center. We tabulated frequencies, percentages, and 20-year percentage-point changes by race/ethnicity. We examined data for all current ASPPH-member institutions and for comparable subcohorts of 1996 and 1997 member institutions that are current ASPPH members. Results: In graduate student enrollment, the 20-year increase in each nonwhite racial/ethnic subgroup was ≤5 percentage points. Among tenured faculty, the 20-year increase was greatest among Asians (8 percentage points) but was <3 percentage points for black, Hispanic, and Native American faculty. Conclusions: The increasing racial/ethnic diversity among students, graduates, and faculty in schools and programs of public health contributes to parallel increases in racial/ethnic diversity in the public health workforce. Schools and programs of public health should recruit clusters of racial/ethnic minority students using holistic application review processes, provide enrolled students with racially/ethnically diverse role models and mentors, and dedicate staffing to ensure a student-centered approach. In addition, those who mentor racially/ethnically diverse students and junior faculty should be rewarded.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-81
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • academic public health
  • faculty diversity
  • racial/ethnic composition
  • racial/ethnic diversity
  • student diversity
  • Faculty/statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups/statistics & numerical data
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Ethnicity/statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Graduate/statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Public Health Professional/statistics & numerical data
  • Students/statistics & numerical data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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