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ADEA Access Diversity and Inclusion Portfolio — March 2015

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During the recent ADEA Annual Session and Exhibition, the ADEA Access, Diversity and Inclusion portfolio (ADEA ADI) presented a session titled “The Two or More Race Designation: How Schools are Navigating This New Paradigm.” The session addressed evolving racial and ethnic definitions and general guidelines for collecting and reporting racial and ethnic demographics given revised U.S. Census Bureau guidelines. The session also presented a new table from ADEA that provides a more detailed analysis of the Two or More Races category.   

The session explored how racial definitions continue to evolve. For example, into the 1970s, The Census Bureau categorized Americans into three racial groups: white, Negro, and other. Furthermore, the Census Bureau stated that persons of Mexican birth or ancestry were classified as white unless they were of American Indian ancestry. Today, racial and ethnic categories used by the Census Bureau include Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, White, Asian, Black or African American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. According to the Census Bureau, the definition of “White” no longer includes persons of Mexican birth or ancestry, but it does include those of Middle Eastern or North African origin. The presenters discussed how these changes in racial definitions are especially critical for dental schools attempting to accurately capture the diversity of their students.  

In recent years, the recognition of persons from multi-racial backgrounds in the Two or More Races category has added another new element to the data. ADEA began collecting data in the Two or More Races category in 2010 (as required by the federal government), and the impact on the data has been two-fold: small increases or declines in some underrepresented minority groups and a decline in the number of persons in the Do Not Wish to Report or Unknown category. For example, from 2009 to 2013 the number of Black/African American first-year students enrolling in dental school only increased from 252 to 268 persons, a 6% increase. However the 268 Black/African American students in 2013 did not include the 36 students who identified as Black/African American and another race. These 36 students would be counted under the Two or More Races category. Schools could choose to combine those students along with the Black/African American category, which then increased the total number of Black/African American first-year students in 2013 to 304, a 21% increase from 2009. This certainly provides a different trend within dental education. These data can be found in a new table from ADEA that displays each racial group with each of the possible sub-categories. Under each racial group are three sub-categories: Non-Hispanic alone (includes persons who only selected a single racial group, but not Hispanic), Non-Hispanic in combination (persons who selected multiple racial groups, but not Hispanic), and Hispanic (persons who selected both the racial group and Hispanic). The Non-Hispanic in combination row in the table are persons that are counted together under the Two or More Races category.   

Since the option to select Two or More Races became available, along with clearer guidelines from the Census Bureau, there are fewer people in the Do Not Wish to Report or Unknown category. In 2009, there were 425 first-year students listed in the Do Not Wish to Report race category, and in 2013 that number dropped to 181.   

Dr. Dennis Mitchell, Senior Associate Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion at Columbia University,and one of the presenters discussed how Columbia has collected data on the racial composition of its campus community. By using ADEA’s tools, they have been able to better understand their campus community, which has resulted in a more supportive and inclusive environment for their students. Dr. Todd Ester, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, surveyed 263 dental students at his school. Overwhelmingly, 70%, said they want to be identified by all of their racial identities. Dr. Ester believes that ADEA’s efforts to expand beyond the Two or More Races is critical to dental schools and the students we educate.

Duggan Dental