Objective: To understand the association between provider gender and ophthalmologists' annual incomes.
Design: Retrospective analysis of survey data collected from ophthalmologists by the American Medical Association (AMA) between 1992 and 2001.
Participants: Six hundred thirty white male and 62 white female actively practicing ophthalmologists who responded to the AMA's survey of physicians between 1992 and 2001 and who worked in an office-based practice.
Methods: A linear regression model was generated to determine the association between provider gender and ophthalmologists' annual incomes after controlling for work effort, provider characteristics, and practice characteristics.
Main outcome measures: Annual incomes of male and female ophthalmologists in 2004 dollars after controlling for work effort, provider characteristics, and practice characteristics.
Results: White female ophthalmologists reported having 24% fewer visits and working 5% fewer annual hours than their white male counterparts. White female ophthalmologists had practiced medicine for fewer years than white males and were more likely to be employees, as opposed to having an ownership interest in the practice, but less likely to be board certified. After adjustment for work effort, provider characteristics, and practice characteristics, white females' mean annual income was $219,194, or $55,091 (20%) lower than white males' (95% confidence interval, -$93,611 to -$16,572; P = 0.005).
Conclusions: During the 1990s, female gender was associated with lower annual incomes among ophthalmologists. Observed differences may be attributable to factors that we were not able to measure, such as whether the clinician practice was predominantly medical or surgical. However, just as policymakers are exploring gender differences in access to and outcomes of health care, they should further explore gender-based income differences among physicians.