US Physicians Pay: Black & White

US Physicians Pay: Black & WhiteUS Physicians Pay: Black & White

Research, published this week in ‘The BMJ’, unearths racial and sexual disparity in the paychecks of physicians. Even after controlling for a number of variables, the income gulf remained significant.

Historically, women and black people in the United States have been paid less than their white, male counterparts.

In 2011, the average household income for non-Hispanic whites was $76,063 and, for black people, it was $47,255.

There is an array of reasons for this gap in income, but physicians represent a more homogenous group of individuals. For instance, one reason for the difference in pay between races is education level. For physicians, this factor is removed.

Previous studies investigating racial differences in physicians’ pay have been small-scale and reliant on relatively old data. On the other hand, the difference in pay between genders has been more thoroughly investigated, reported.

The current study, led by Ruth L. Newhouse, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, is the first to take a deeper look at the pay differences associated with race among physicians; the team also used the data to assess current gender-based differences in income.

Researchers used data from the 2000-2013 American Community Survey (ACS) and the 2000-2008 Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) physician survey - both of which include data from across the US.

 Comprehensive Data

“We found substantial differences in annual income between black and white male physicians in the US, and between male and female physicians overall,” the authors said.

The ACS included data from 43,213 white men, 1,698 black men, 15,164 white women, and 1,252 black women.

The HSC used information from 12,843 white male physicians, 518 black male physicians, 3,880 white female physicians, and 342 black female physicians.

Researchers found that white male physicians, as a group, had the highest median income. The ACS survey showed that white male physicians earned $253,042, and black male physicians earned $188,230.

White females received a median of $163,234, compared with $152,784 for black females - a less substantial but not insignificant difference. It is also worth noting that females, as a whole, still earned substantially less than the male group.

Some of the gap could be attributed to black physicians working for Medicaid and Medicare patients more often, where income is likely to be lower.

One reason for the disparity might be a subspecialty split. For instance, cardiologists, on average, might earn more than some specialties and less than others.

Researchers argued that sex- and race-based disparities cannot be removed by simply opening up opportunities for women and minorities. “Efforts to eliminate these disparities might need to look beyond medical school admissions and training to the broader workplace.”