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New NIH Definition of Socioeconomic Disadvantage

(Adapted from NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-20-031 and the November 26, 2019 post on Open Mike by Dr. Mike Lauer, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research)

An extensive literature demonstrates that socioeconomic status is one of the strongest predictors of both health and educational outcomes. To enhance its ability to encourage and support the careers of a diverse group of scientists, in 2018, the NIH added those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds to the list of individuals it encouraged institutions to support. (The list already included individuals from racial and ethnic groups identified by the NSF as underrepresented in the sciences and individuals with disabilities.)

As of the end of 2019, the NIH will consider individuals to have come from a disadvantaged background if they meet at least two of the following criteria.   

  1. Were or currently are homeless, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
  2. Were or currently are in the foster care system, as defined by the Administration for Children and Families;
  3. Were eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for two or more years;
  4. Have/had no parents or legal guardians who completed a bachelor’s degree (see the U.S. Department of Education);
  5. Were or currently are eligible for Federal Pell grants;
  6. Received support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children as a parent or child;
  7. Grew up in one of the following areas: a) a U.S. rural area, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer, or b) a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas (qualifying zip codes are included in the file). Only one of the two possibilities in #7 can be used as a criterion for the disadvantaged background.