Objectives: This study examines the comparative distributions of postresident international medical graduates (IMGs) and US medical graduates (USMGs) in high and low poverty areas of US cities. Existing research has established that IMGs are more likely than USMGs to practice in urban areas, yet there is the question whether IMGs locate more frequently than USMGs in urban poverty areas.
Methods: Data from the 1997 AMA Physician Masterfile and 1990 US Census were merged to classify physicians' practices into low- and high-poverty areas in selected cities.
Results: In 14 cities with populations of 2.5 million or more, IMGs were located in a statistically significant disproportion in poverty areas of 7 cities. Of 36 cities with populations of 1,000,000 to 2,499,999, there were 5 cities that had significant IMG disproportions in poverty areas. Of a random sample of 27 cities with populations of 250,000 to 999,999, there were 2 cities that had significant IMG disproportions. Many cities in all three size categories had a large proportionate IMG complement of the total physician workforce located within high-poverty areas.
Conclusions: IMGs were found in disproportionate numbers in poverty areas in a number of US cities, especially the very largest ones. These findings are discussed in light of the current debate about a physician surplus and initiatives to reduce the number of IMGs in residency training.