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Does Gender Pay Gap Exist Among U.S. Physicians?

In the last two weeks, you may have taken a survey centering around the issue of gender pay gap in the medical field, specifically among U.S. physicians. The main purpose of the survey was to assess whether people at KU thought the pay gap exists in different medical specialties and the reason why people believe such gap is present or not.

170 faculty, staff, and student members at KU who participated in the survey provided responses. Most people thought men are paid more in 13 out of the 14 different specialties. One interesting aspect of the result, though, was that less people thought the pay gap existed, and women are paid more, in fields such as Pediatrics, Family Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Overall, the main reasons why people thought the pay gap existed or not focused on two different categories:

  1. Data suggesting gender pay gap exists is not accurate because it does not account for confounding variables such as different specialties having varying salaries, experience, or number of hours worked.
  2. Men get paid more across most specialties. However, women get paid more in fields like OBGYN and pediatrics as there are more women in those specialties.

So, does gender pay gap exist in the medical field? Luckily, this topic has been investigated by several researchers in the past and the data is very convincing that the pay gap exists.

It has been a common belief that pay gap among physicians does not actually exist because more women tend to enter fields such as pediatrics or family practice where the base salary is lower than other specialties such as cardiology or surgery. Other reasons for such belief include factors such as productivity, number of hours worked, or women leaving their work for an extended period of time when having a child. Research conducted by Dr. Sasso and colleagues demonstrated an overall gap of $16,819 exists between the two genders.

The researchers accomplished this by collecting data from physicians who just entered the workforce after finishing their training programs and controlling for many variables including race, age, citizenship, and educational debt.

The researchers also observed, on the contrary to popular belief, that men are paid more than women physicians even in pediatrics, family practice, and obstetrics and gynecology. Another significant trend the researchers have discovered is that the overall pay gap has been gradually widening from 1999 to 2008.

Gender pay gap has been reported in other professions in the U.S. and the medical field does not appear to be immune to the problem. So why does the pay gap persist?

Possible explanations include discrimination, employment negotiations, and other unidentified aspects in the medical professions. Although no one clear solution to the problem exists, steps can be taken starting now to eliminate the gap. Authors of the paper suggest “the administrators, policy makers and medical training programs to reconsider how they attract providers, how they construct their working arrangements, and how they pay” [1].

If you wish to learn more about gender pay gap in the medical field, the following video provides a great analysis of the issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVhgKSULNQA

Source:

[1] Sasso, A. T. L., Richards, M. R., Chou, C. F., & Gerber, S. E. (2011). The $16,819 pay gap for newly trained physicians: the unexplained trend of men earning more than women. Health Affairs, 30(2), 193-201.

Editor’s Note: Contributed by Shin Jaejoon

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