Pay gap between male, female doctors widens

By Reuters
Posted Feb. 3 at 7:22 a.m.

Newly trained female doctors in the United States make nearly $17,000 less than their male counterparts, even though women increasingly are choosing careers in higher-paying medical specialties, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

They said there has been a widening gender gap in starting salaries for female doctors, rising from a difference of $3,600 in 1999 to $16,819 in 2008.

“It is not surprising to say that women physicians make less than male physicians because women traditionally choose lower-paying jobs in primary care fields or they choose to work fewer hours,” Anthony Lo Sasso of the School of Public Health of the University of Illinois at Chicago said in a statement.

“What is surprising is that even when we account for specialty and hours and other factors, we see this growing unexplained gap in starting salary. The same gap exists for women in primary care as it does in specialty fields,” said Lo Sasso, whose findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.

The study is based on survey data from more than 8,000 doctors exiting training programs in New York, a state that is home to more residency programs and resident physicians than any other in the United States.

While historically women have tended to choose primary care fields such as family medicine or pediatrics, the percentage of women entering those fields dropped from about 50 percent in 1999 to just over 30 percent in 2008, roughly on par with male doctors.

But even though women doctors are choosing higher-paying medical specialties, they still made considerably less than men in 2008. The team found the gap widened even after adjusting for choice of specialty, practice type or number of hours worked.

“Essentially, what we see is our ability to explain that difference in salary between men and women goes away. What we’re left with is almost a $17,000 salary difference between men and women,” Lo Sasso said in a telephone interview.

“We weren’t expecting to see this widening gap in salary over time and the inability to account for it with any observable characteristics.”

While the study does not show why, Lo Sasso said the team cannot rule out gender bias as an explanation. But he thought it likely that female doctors were taking less pay in exchange for regular schedules or other family-friendly benefits.

“What we think it is essentially women trading off some salary for other non-monetary aspects of the job,” he said.

Read more about the topics in this post: , ,


  1. chris Feb. 3 at 10:19 a.m.

    You also have to adjust for location. That is likely the largest factor.

  2. BKG Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m.

    You’ve correctly adjusted for specialties, now please also adjust for location, female doctor pregnancy and maternity leaves, and any other relevant factors. For once let’s get ALL the facts (something media rarely does). Then we can see how big the gap is and what we need to do to eliminate it.

  3. Queenie Feb. 3 at 11:31 a.m.

    Salary? Many doctors do not work on salary, but “fee for service” (i.e., on commission – like salesmen). So maybe the women are doing fewer procedures.

    Is there any evidence that women are being paid less for the same CPT codes?
    Or are female doctors not as good as upcoding and performing unncessary procedures as their male colleagues?

  4. Steven Richards M.D. Feb. 3 at 12:41 pm

    Most physicians who have just finished their training are in their late 20s or early 30s. Many of them have delayed having families because their time-intensive training didn’t allow it. Once that training is done, many women decide to work part time to have babies and take care of their children. As a result of working less hours, these women obviously make less money than their male counterparts.

  5. Perry Mason Feb. 3 at 2:39 pm

    what’s unexplained? All employers pay women less. period.

  6. Mick Feb. 3 at 3:59 pm

    If everything else is equal; qualifications, specialty, locations, hours worked, etc. and they are still being paid less… sue the payor. We need more pediatric and family practioners who actually do something useful. We need fewer botox, liposuction, breast augmentation doctors. The insurance companies do a terrible job of policing the upchargers. They made me feel like the perp when I challanged doctor charges. They accept and encourage fraud. Rotten, rotten, rotten.

  7. Sergem Feb. 3 at 4:00 pm

    May be because patients prefer male doctors? In any profession males get paid more because their work better.

  8. eric Feb. 3 at 5:50 pm

    I just bought a ($2,299.00 17-inch) MacBook Pro for only $229.62. Think thats a deal? Well let me tell you, my neighbor’s are waiting on a stunning 65″ 3D LED TV, they paid $431.47 and its arriving tomorrow. It feels terrific not paying high street prices While everyone else has to. Now I’m makeing a fortune selling stuff like iPods on to my co-workers, I use two sites, both are good and

  9. Linda Brodsky, MD Feb. 3 at 7:12 pm

    Speculation on the “data”. Great research ruined by unresearched and wrongheaded explanations and justifications that continue to perpetuate gender discrimination. And btw, Sergem, my patients prefer a woman surgeon. And nobody does it better….
    Check it out on my blog: