Adapting to Racial Trends in the US Population

Adapting to Racial Trends in the US Population

Adapting to Racial Trends in the US Population

∗Minorities include individuals from the following racial/ethnic groups: Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and two or more races. Image courtesy of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The racial composition of the United States is changing rapidly, with nearly 40% of the population now classified as non-White and today’s racial/ethnic minority groups expected to become the majority by 2043, the U.S. Census Bureau projects. Recognizing the value to patients of a comparably diverse nursing workforce, nursing organizations are working to attract more African American, Asian, and Hispanic nurses, and other minority populations as well as men to the profession.

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While progress has been made—the proportion of minority graduates from baccalaureate nursing programs grew from 25.5% in 2011 to 33.8% in 2020—growth among specific racial groups was uneven, with Hispanic graduates accounting for the greatest increase, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Overall, in 2020, 12% of graduates were Hispanic, 11%, African American, and 8%, Asian and Pacific Islander. A worrisome 2% drop over the last decade in the proportion of African American nursing graduates has resulted in stagnant growth in absolute numbers.

The reason for this isn’t obvious, especially in light of comparatively high salaries for RNs and projections for growth in job opportunities. Offsetting these attractive economic prospects, however, appears to be negative working and educational experiences for African American RNs, who report racial bias in employment, opportunities for advancement, and academia. The AACN is participating in several initiatives to improve the situation, including mentoring and scholarship programs, grants for diversity training, and new pathways to academic careers for nurses from racial/ethnic minority groups. “Having a diverse group of nursing faculty can help recruit, support, and retain diversity within the nursing student population,” the AACN noted in a recent report (), adding that African Americans, who make up 13.4% of the U.S. population, currently account for only 8.7% of the teaching faculty at nursing schools.—Frank Brodhead

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