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Survey Finds Women Doctors’ Pay Catches Up to Men’s

April 10, 1996

BOSTON (AP) _ Young women doctors make just as much as men _ if they work as many hours.

A new study of physicians under age 45 finds that women average $110,000 a year. This is $45,000 less than men the same age make. But the difference can be explained entirely by women’s shorter hours as well as their choice of less lucrative specialties and practice arrangements.

In other words, if women doctors pick the same specialties, work in the same practice settings and put in the same hours as male physicians do, they are likely to make just as much money.

``It’s guardedly good news,″ said Lawrence C. Baker, an economist at Stanford University.

It’s also a change from the early 1980s, when men doctors earned 13 percent more per hour than their female colleagues, even when everything else was the same.

The biggest factor in men’s fatter pay checks is the number of hours they work. Men doctors average 62 hours a week, and they work 47 weeks a year; women put in 51 hours for 46 weeks.

Men doctors are also more likely than women to opt for such high-paying specialties as cardiology and surgery, while women more often go into family medicine, which is traditionally near the bottom of the physician pay scale.

Male doctors also are more apt to be self-employed, either in solo or group practices. These arrangements pay better than staff positions in hospitals or health maintenance organizations, which are more likely to attract women doctors.

``It’s hard to know why men and women choose different practice settings and specialties, but that seems to play a big role in the earnings differences,″ Baker said.

His findings were based on a 1991 survey of 6,053 doctors sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It was published in Thursday’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Baker found some exceptions to the pay equality. For instance, in family practice, female doctors make 13 percent more an hour than their male colleagues, even when such factors as experience, malpractice claims and practice setting are taken into account. On the other hand, in internal medicine subspecialties, women doctors make 26 percent an hour less.

In other areas, such as surgery, radiology and obstetrics, men and women make about the same.

``This is a trend I would have expected. Groups are willing to pay equally for men and women to practice,″ said Dr. Bonnie Tesch of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The number of women physicians in the United States has more than quadrupled over the past two decades, and more than 40 percent of medical students are now female.

In an editorial, Dr. Ruth L. Kitschstein of the National Institutes of Health noted that women doctors still trail men in winning top positions in medical schools and professional groups, although this is changing.

``As the United States enters the 21st century, it is imperative that women physicians, who appear to have achieved equity in earnings in medical practice settings, also achieve greater prominence in academic and organized medicine,″ she wrote.

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