Male Physicians Earn 25 Percent More Than Female Docs

Equal pay just ain't happening.

doctor image via shutterstock

doctor image via shutterstock

The gender pay gap persists, despite claims that things are changing.

We’ve all heard about the gap when it comes to business executives and the suits on Wall Street. Forbes recently reported that the top five female leaders of the S&P 500 earn 18 percent less than their male peers.

But what about doctors? Certainly the pay gap can’t be that large, right? These people are saving lives! According to a new report by Harvard Medical School (HMS), male physicians earn 25 percent more than their female colleagues. It hasn’t changed from 1987 to 2010, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in September, yet the male-female earnings gap for other professions has closed a bit, from 28 to 15 percent. Despite the pay gap, the percentage of female physicians rose from 10 percent to 28 percent. Women now make up about half of medical school graduates.

So there are more female doctors and they are getting paid less money.

The study was based on data collected from the Current Population Survey (CPS), provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It compared trends in male and female physician earnings with earnings of other health care professionals and with the general population over three periods from 1987 to 2010. The numbers were adjusted for inflation. But the study doesn’t compare apple to apples. So male dermatologists were not compared to female dermatologists. It compares a sampling of male physicians from many specialties with a sampling of female physicians.

According to the report from HMS:

“Given that in the overall economy women have now closed more than half the gender income gap that was present in the late 1980s and given that many more physicians are now women, we were surprised to find such persistent income disparity between men and women in medicine,” said study author Anupam Jena, assistant professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School and general internist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The researchers note several possible reasons for this disparity in pay:

One is that women are more likely than men to choose specialties like pediatrics and family medicine that offer more patient interaction and longitudinal relationships with patients, but are often lower paying than other specialties. But it’s unclear whether women chose those specialties out of personal preference, or because they face obstacles in choosing other specialties.

“Without a better understanding of the underlying causes for those choices, we can’t simply conclude that just because women choose different specialties, pay disparity isn’t an issue,’” Jena said.