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dcyphr | Differences in Physician Income by Gender in a Multiregion Survey

Abstract

Prior studies on gender based physician income were not thorough. This study looks at factors like total hours worked, percent of time spent with the patient, procedures, the specialty of the physician, age, years of working, race, ethnicity, and geographic location. 439 physicians from 6 states and 30  practices are included in the study. The unadjusted results of this study found that male physicians made about $95,000 more a year, worked more total hours, and spent more time doing procedures than females. After adjusting to scale, this study found that males made $27,000 more than females per year. Though the habits of male physicians can explain why they make more money on average, this does not explain why the adjusted income is still $27,000 higher for males.


Introduction

Even though about half of physicians are female, there is still a difference in pay between men and women. Multiple studies have been conducted on this issue, but none have fully explained why men make more than women. The difference in pay between genders is also an issue in individuals who are masters of business administration graduates, layers, and pharmacists. In business and law, men seem to make more because they work more hours and more continuously throughout their career, so they strengthen ties with clients and in turn continue to make more money. For pharmacists, the difference in pay can be entirely attributed to a difference in hours worked as most pharmacists work hourly. This study aims to account for a variety of factors that will explain if the physician wage gap is more similar to those in business and law, or purely hourly like pharmacists.



Methods

439 physicians from 30 different specialties responded to the survey sent by this study, throughout Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The survey included a self reported income, gender, specialty, hours worked per week, weeks worked per year, composition of work hours, percent of patient care time spent providing procedures, compensation type, age, years in practice, race, and ethnicity. This study is a secondary analysis of the same survey. The original intent of the survey was to measure physician satisfaction.

Seven Models were generated to see how different factors compared to income. Model 1 was gender alone. Model 2 adjusted for state and practice. Model 3 adjusted for hours worked per year. Model 4 adjusted for specialty. Model 5 adjusted for work hour compensation. Model 6 adjusted for percent of time performing procedures and compensation type. Model 7 adjusted for age, years in practice, race, and ethnicity. The researchers accounted for the non-response rate for the survey, and excluded data outside of the 95th percentile for hours worked and salary.


Results

Men reported working about 400 more hours a year than females, and working 360 more patient care hours than females. Males also provided more procedures with and without anesthesia than females. Males were less likely than females to be primary care physicians, which is a specialty that tends to make less money. A majority of male respondents were white, about 40, and had been practicing for over 10 years.

In each of the models described the the methods section, more factors were looked at to determine an adjusted wage difference. Unadjusted, the difference was about $91,000 for males and females. But in Model 7, which accounted for the most of the large factors, the difference was $27,000. This means that the models were able to account for 70% of the wage difference, but 30% was still unaccounted for.


Discussion

The 30% of unaccounted for income difference between men and women may have an explanation outside of the parameters of this study. For example, this study did not account for which procedures were being performed and whether they were more profitable or not. Other studies have partially explained the physician wage gap, but used less factors and accounted for less than 70% of the wage gap like this study did.

In all of the studies that have been done and have accounted for different factors, there still remains an amount of the wage gap that has not been attributed to anything. A long term study over a physician’s career or their salaries may be helpful in attributing the wage gap. Though there are limits to this study, more research should be conducted based on these findings to help understand the physician gender based wage gap.