A gap in earnings between male and female U.S. physicians has persisted over the last 20 years, according to a research letter by Seth A. Seabury, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and colleagues.
Using nationally representative data from the March Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1987 to 2010, the researchers estimated trends in the male-female earnings gap among physicians, other health care workers, and workers overall. The sample included 1,334,894 individuals, including 6,258 physicians and 31,857 other health care professionals, and the percentage of physicians surveyed who were female increased from 10.3 percent in 1987-1990 to 28.4 percent in 2006-2010. Three periods were analyzed (1987-1990, 1996-2000, and 2006-2010) and adjusted for hours worked to avoid overstating gender differences in earnings if female physicians work fewer hours.
According to the study results, there was no statistically significant improvement over time in the earnings of female physicians relative to male physicians. Overall, the gender gap decreased considerably outside of the health care industry but inconsistently within it.
"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. This is because specialty and practice choices may be due to not only preferences of female physicians but also unequal opportunities," the study concludes.
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JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 2, 2013. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.8519