Document Type


Publication Date



BMC Medical Education





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier



BACKGROUND: While the importance of medical students' demographic characteristics in influencing the scope and location of their future practice is recognized, these data are not systematically collected in Canada. This study aimed to characterize and compare the demographics of Canadian medical students with the Canadian population.

METHODS: Through an online survey, delivered in 2018, medical students at 14 English-speaking Canadian medical schools provided their age, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, educational background, and rurality of the area they grew up in. Respondents also provided information on parental income, occupation, and education as markers of socioeconomic status. Data were compared to the 2016 Canadian Census.

RESULTS: A total of 1388 students responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 16.6%. Most respondents identified as women (63.1%) and were born after 1989 (82.1%). Respondents were less likely, compared to the Canadian Census population, to identify as black (1.7% vs 6.4%) (P < 0.001) or Aboriginal (3.5% vs. 7.4%) (P < 0.001), and have grown up in a rural area (6.4% vs. 18.7%) (P < 0.001). Respondents had higher socioeconomic status, indicated by parental education (29.0% of respondents' parents had a master's or doctoral degree, compared to 6.6% of Canadians aged 45-64), occupation (59.7% of respondents' parents were high-level managers or professionals, compared to 19.2% of Canadians aged 45-64), and income (62.9% of respondents grew up in households with income >$100,000/year, compared to 32.4% of Canadians). Assessment of non-response bias showed that our sample was representative of all students at English-speaking Canadian medical schools with respect to age, though a higher proportion of respondents were female. Additionally, there were no differences between early and late respondents with respect to ethnicity, rurality, and parental income, occupation, and education.

CONCLUSIONS: Canadian medical students have different socioeconomic characteristics compared to the Canadian population. Collecting and analyzing these characteristics can inform evidence-based admissions policies.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Find in your library