Considerations for using race and ethnicity as quantitative variables in medical education research

Nikki L. Bibler Zaidi
Paula T. Ross
Sally A. Santen
Tamera Hart-Johnson
Soort article
Eye Opener
Quantitative methods,
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Throughout history, race and ethnicity have been used as key descriptors to categorize and label individuals. The use of these concepts as variables can impact resources, policy, and perceptions in medical education. Despite the pervasive use of race and ethnicity as quantitative variables, it is unclear whether researchers use them in their proper context. In this Eye Opener, we present the following seven considerations with corresponding recommendations, for using race and ethnicity as variables in medical education research: 1) Ensure race and ethnicity variables are used to address questions directly related to these concepts. 2) Use race and ethnicity to represent social experiences, not biological facts, to explain the phenomenon under study. 3) Allow study participants to define their preferred racial and ethnic identity. 4) Collect complete and accurate race and ethnicity data that maximizes data richness and minimizes opportunities for researchers’ assumptions about participants’ identity. 5) Follow evidence-based practices to describe and collapse individual-level race and ethnicity data into broader categories. 6) Align statistical analyses with the study’s conceptualization and operationalization of race and ethnicity. 7) Provide thorough interpretation of results beyond simple reporting of statistical significance. By following these recommendations, medical education researchers can avoid major pitfalls associated with the use of race and ethnicity and make informed decisions around some of the most challenging race and ethnicity topics in medical education.


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