Differences in incomes of physicians in the United States by race and sex: observational study

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To estimate differences in annual income of physicians in the United States by race and sex adjusted for characteristics of physicians and practices.

DESIGN

Cross sectional survey study.

SETTING

Nationally representative samples of US physicians.

PARTICIPANTS

The 2000-13 American Community Survey (ACS) included 43 213 white male, 1698 black male, 15 164 white female, and 1252 black female physicians. The 2000-08 Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) physician surveys included 12 843 white male, 518 black male, 3880 white female, and 342 black female physicians.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Annual income adjusted for age, hours worked, time period, and state of residence (from ACS data). Income was adjusted for age, specialty, hours worked, time period, years in practice, practice type, and percentage of revenue from Medicare/Medicaid (from HSC physician surveys).

RESULTS

White male physicians had a higher median annual income than black male physicians, whereas race was not consistently associated with median income among female physicians. For example, in 2010-13 in the ACS, white male physicians had an adjusted median annual income of $253 042 (95% confidence interval $248 670 to $257 413) compared with $188 230 ($170 844 to $205 616) for black male physicians (difference $64 812; P<0.001). White female physicians had an adjusted median annual income of $163 234 ($159 912 to 166 557) compared with $152 784 ($137 927 to $167 641) for black female physicians (difference $10 450; P=0.17). $100 000 is currently equivalent to about £69 000 (€89 000). Patterns were unaffected by adjustment for specialty and characteristics of practice in the HSC physician surveys.

CONCLUSIONS

White male physicians earn substantially more than black male physicians, after adjustment for characteristics of physicians and practices, while white and black female physicians earn similar incomes to each other, but significantly less than their male counterparts. Whether these differences reflect disparities in job opportunities is important to determine.

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