Female Physicians Earn 25% Less than Males

Although the gender wage gap is supposedly narrowing across the country, health care seems to be an exception where females are now earning 25% less than male counterparts.

Across the country women are paid less than men, although the gap is supposedly narrowing. However, health care seems to be an exception. Historically female physicians earned less than their male counterparts and new research shows the gap has widened recently.

The research letter “Trends in the Earnings of Male and Female Health Care Professionals in the United States, 1987 to 2010” in JAMA revealed that there was no improvement over time in the earnings of female physicians relative to males.

“Overall the gender gap fell considerably outside of the health care industry but inconsistently within it,” wrote authors Seth A. Seabury, PhD, Amitabh Chandra, PhD, and Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD.

In fact, from 1987 to 1990 males earned $33,840 more than female physicians and that gender gap increased slightly to $34,620 in 1996 to 2000 and even more to $56,019, or 25% less than males, in 2006 to 2010.

The researchers used data from the March Current Population Survey from 1987 to 2010 to estimate trends in the gender earnings gap among physicians. They adjusted for differences in hours worked and years of experience

“While it is important to study gender differences in earnings after accounting for factors such as specialty choice and practice type, it is equally important to understand overall unadjusted gender differences in earnings,” the authors wrote. “This is because specialty and practice choices may be due to not only preferences of female physicians but also unequal opportunities.”

In an invited commentary in JAMA Molly Cooke, MD, said that there was no good reason for pay inequality to exist in health care professions while it declines among non-health care workers.

“Pay discrepancies between men and women for the same work has remained a pervasive and refractory problem,” she wrote. “…At $56,019 per year, the difference is consequential; multiplied over a 30- or 40-year professional lifetime, it is huge.”