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Diversity at Top MBA Programs

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

In recent years, business schools have stepped up their efforts to build MBA classes that resemble the wider population in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. Of course, some schools have been more successful in this regard than others.

So how do B-schools in the United States stack up as far as representation of racial and ethnic minorities? Answering this question can be tricky because of differences in how schools report their data.

For example, some schools group all non-white students together while others specifically calculate the proportion of underrepresented minorities. How to count international versus U.S.-born students is another complicating factor.

One approach is simply to rank business schools in the United States according to their proportion of minority students.

Data from U.S. News shows that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the B-schools with the highest fraction of minority students tend to be associated with historically black universities. Of the top five schools, four are at historically black universities and the fifth is at University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras.

A different approach would be to take the top-ranked MBA programs in the United States and see what the proportion of minority students is at each one.

Along these lines, here are the top 5 schools in U.S. News’s 2019 MBA rankings along with the information about racial and ethnic diversity each school released in its latest class profile:

  1. Harvard Business School: 25 percent U.S. ethnic minorities
  2. University of Chicago Booth School of Business: 27 percent U.S. ethnic minorities
  3. University of Pennsylvania Wharton School: 33 percent U.S. ethnic minorities
  4. Stanford Graduate School of Business: 29 percent U.S. ethnic minorities
  5. MIT Sloan School of Management: 18 percent underrepresented U.S. minorities

One thing to note about these figures is that direct comparisons between schools aren’t always possible. For instance, HBS gives the total proportion of U.S. ethnic minorities while MIT Sloan specifically highlights underrepresented U.S. minorities.

The good news is that most schools provide some type of information about racial or ethnic diversity that you can find by looking up their class profiles. The bad news is that this data isn’t yet standardized enough to be able to consistently compare schools with each other and rank them.

An important question is how closely the demographics of MBA classes at B-schools like the ones listed above mirror the demographics of the U.S. population in general.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people of Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander origin comprise over 30 percent of the U.S. population. So underrepresented minorities remain underrepresented at B-schools.

The problem appears to be systemic: according to GMAC, only 16 percent of GMAT test takers in the United States are from underrepresented populations.

There is substantial geographic variation, though. For example, 26 percent of GMAT test takers in the South but only 9 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region are from underrepresented backgrounds.

GMAC’s data also indicates that offering scholarships is an effective way business schools can support students from underrepresented populations.

While students not from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to rely on parents (30 percent vs. 20 percent), personal savings (41 vs. 30 percent) and employer sponsorships (31 vs 24) to pay for B-school, underrepresented students tend to rely on scholarships (70 vs. 49) and loans (67 vs 53).

At top business schools, these scholarships can of course be very competitive. If you’re wondering how your profile lines up with what schools are looking for and how you can put together an application that  emphasizes your unique strengths, we can help – get in touch with us for a free assessment!

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