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Survey Finds Majority Feel Doctors Make Too Much Money

June 16, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ A broad majority of people feel that physicians, like movie stars and professional athletes, make too much money, researchers report.

Of the 843 people questioned nationwide in a public opinion poll by two University of Illinois sociologists, 70.1 percent said physicians are overpaid. Only 2.4 percent of those polled think doctors earn too little.

Catherine Ross, a sociologist at UI’s Champaign-Urbana campus, said the findings are surprising because it has been generally thought that doctors deserve high incomes because of their years of education and the life-saving work they do.

″Although the public believes that physicians provide a valuable service, they also beleive that physicians’ incomes are unfairly high for the contribution they make,″ she reported in the Chicago-based American Journal of Public Health.

The average physician made about $106,300 in 1983, according to figures supplied by the American Medical Association. That compares with the average household income in the United States of just above $20,000, she said.

Doctors were ranked fourth among those the public thinks earn excessively high incomes, said Ross, who conducted the study with UI sociologist Janet Lauritsen.

Nearly 81 percent of those surveyed said they thought movie stars and top entertainers are paid too much, 78.8 percent said professional athletes are overpaid and 74.4 percent think top executives earn too much money, the researchers said.

A majority considered teachers and office workers underpaid, while those thought to be paid about the right salaries are skilled blue-collar workers, union factory workers, scientists, middle-level managers and owners of small businesses, according to the survey.

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