Pay Gap Confirmed: Male Physicians Earn More

Joe Cantlupe, February 3, 2011

A study finds a "significant gender gap" in starting salaries, by gender, of physicians leaving residency programs in New York State between 1999-2008. But researchers writing in Health Affairs say this is an unexplained trend that seems to be growing over time, and needs to be further studied.

Within a decade, male physicians leaving residency programs were consistently and increasingly paid more than women, 17% more in 2008, reflecting significant gender pay gaps, according to a Health Affairs study released Thursday.

On the face of it, just looking at the numbers, it seems, either blatantly sexist or the result of gender discrimination. Not so fast, say the authors. There may have been other reasons intrinsically involved, such as women who wanted special working arrangements, or had different lifestyle goals, such as related to child rearing. Or, they may have had different negotiation styles or agreements that set the stage for the salary levels.

Or it may be the result of all of the above, because, as far as authors of the study are concerned, their findings are simply inexplicable, or in their words, "unexplained."

In examining starting salaries by gender of physicians leaving residency programs in New York state during 1999-2008, the researchers found a "significant gender gap" that they say cannot specifically be explained by specialty choice, practice setting, work hours or other characteristics. That flies in the face, generally, of previous research that shows gender differences can specifically be accounted for by a tendency of women to go into primary care, take time off for children, or cut back hours, they say.

The gap, they say, existed throughout the ten-year survey period. According to their figures, in 2008, male physicians newly trained in New York made on an average $16,819 more than newly trained female physicians, compared to the $3,600 in 1999.

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter

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