Luona Lin and Alexandra Ginsberg, American Psychological Association
The psychologist workforce should adequately reflect the changing demographics of the U.S. population so it can be better equipped to address the mental health service needs of the increasingly diverse U.S. population.
The American Psychological Association (APA) Center for Workforce Studies uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) to analyze the psychology workforce and education pipeline. The APA is the nation’s largest scientific and professional nonprofit membership organization representing the discipline and profession of psychology. ACS data allowed APA to take a deep dive into the demographic composition of the psychologist workforce, how it has changed over the years, and whether it is adequate to address population health needs.
APA used 2000 to 2019 ACS 1-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files and separated out the psychologist population to look into their demographic characteristics. Using its own interactive data tool, APA was able to show that in 2019, the workforce consisted of 83% White and 17% racial/ethnic minority psychologists. Although the demographics of the U.S. population are not yet mirrored within the psychologist workforce, findings from this data tool suggest that the numbers of racial/ethnic minority psychologists are increasing within the field: between 2000 and 2019 the number of racial/ethnic minorities within the psychologist workforce more than doubled (from 7,140 to 18,986, or an increase of 166%).
To further examine whether the psychology workforce will be able to meet future population health needs, APA collaborated with IHS Markit, a business information organization, to examine workforce projections from 2015 to 2030 based on ACS data, among other federal and administrative data sources. Results suggest that the supply of psychologists is insufficient to address the unmet need for mental health services. In particular, the projections indicated large demand increases among racial/ethnic minorities between 2015 and 2030, with an increase of 30% within the Hispanic population and 11% within the Black/African American population.
In March 2020, APA’s advocacy staff used this information to advocate for increased funding for psychology workforce programs through approximately 250 meetings on Capitol Hill. This effort ultimately helped secure a $3 million increase for psychology education and training to build a more robust and diverse workforce. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program received approximately $1 million, while the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) received the remaining $2 million for its Minority Fellowship Program (MFP).
GPE supports three-year grants to accredited doctoral, internship, and post-doctoral training programs to increase the supply of psychologists specifically trained to deliver services to medically underserved populations including racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, children, individuals with chronic illness, veterans, victims of abuse, victims of natural disasters, and uninsured individuals.
The MFP works to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racial and ethnic populations by supporting the training, mentoring, and career development for psychology graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and early career psychologists.
In addition to gaining funding, the data were presented to the House of Representatives by APA’s CEO, Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, during a hearing on legislation to improve mental health during crisis in June 2020, which highlighted the shortage of mental health professionals and the need for a more diverse mental health workforce.
Because of insights from ACS data, APA was able to secure needed funding for programs that are working to strengthen the mental health workforce and meet the needs of communities.
Race, Hispanic or Latino origin, age, occupation, educational attainment, and employment