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Study Reveals A Widening Gender Gap In Doctor Starting Salaries

February 7, 2011

woman doctor checking patient's blood pressureThe starting salaries of new physicians are showing a widening gender gap, a recent study has found.

New female doctors are being paid significantly lower starting salaries than their male counterparts, The Wall Street Journal reported. The study, published in the February issue of Health Affairs, revealed that women doctors are paid about $17,000 less than male doctors, even while accounting for factors such as medical specialty, hours worked and practice type. Overall, researchers found that women had lower starting salaries than men in nearly all specialties.

According to Reuters, the study is based on survey data from more than 8,000 doctors who were exiting training programs in New York, a state that hosts more residency programs and resident physicians than any other in the US.

The gap in physician compensation has grown steadily in recent years, to $16,819 in 2008, from just $3,600 in 1999, The Wall Street Journal noted. That women comprise nearly half of all American medical students makes the study's findings even more alarming, researchers say.

In 1999, newly-trained female physicians earned $151,600 on average, compared to $173,400 for men--a 12.5 percent salary difference. In 2008, the salary gap widened by nearly 17 percent, with women earning $174,000, while men earned $209,300.

Anthony Lo Sasso, lead researcher of the study and a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the pay disparity exists because women doctors are seeking greater flexibility and family-oriented benefits, such as not being on call after certain hours. Women, he says, may be advocating for these work conditions while they are negotiating their starting salaries. However, other factors, such as gender discrimination and women being less effective than men at negotiating salaries, may also play a role in the lesser pay as well.

"It may be that lifestyle factors may be increasingly important to newer physicians," Lo Sasso said in a press release. "It could be that women in particular want to have more of a lifestyle balance in their medical careers."

Typically, women have disproportionately selected primary care fields such as internal medicine, family practice or pediatrics. However, the portion of women entering primary care has plummeted from nearly 50 percent in 1999 to 30 percent in 2008. Even though women are currently picking higher-paying medical specialties, the researchers found that the pay gap persisted. For instance, female heart surgeons were paid $27,103 less than their male counterparts.


Compiled by Alexander Gong

Sources:

"New Health Affairs Study Identifies Growing Gender Gap in Starting Salaries for Physicians--with Men Making Nearly $17,000 More Than Women in 2008," healthaffairs.org, February 3, 2011

"Pay gap widening between U.S. male, female doctors," reuters.com, February 3, 2011, Julie Steenhuysen

"Women Doctors Face $17,000 Pay Gap," blogs.wsj.com, February 3, 2011, Rachel Emma Silverman

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