Self-employment, specialty choice, and geographical distribution of physicians in Japan: A comparison with the United States

Health Policy. 2010 Aug;96(3):239-44. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Mar 11.


Objectives: Geographic and specialty maldistributions of physicians are political concerns in Japan. This study examined the associations of physician employment status with the number and geographic distribution of the physicians in each specialty in Japan, in comparison with the US.

Methods: The number of physicians per unit population, proportion of clinic (Japan) or office (US) based physicians, and Gini coefficient of physicians against population were calculated in each of 20 specialties in Japan, and 21 specialties in the US. The geographic unit of Gini coefficient was municipality in Japan, and county in the US. Correlations among these three variables were also examined.

Results: The lower the proportion of clinic-based physicians was, the lower the number of physicians and the higher the Gini coefficient were in Japanese specialties, while there was no association between office-based rate and Gini coefficient in the US specialties. In radiology, anaesthesiology, emergency medicine, and pathology, Japanese clinic-based rates were less than one-tenth, and the numbers of physicians per unit population were less than half of the US values, and the Gini coefficients were substantially higher than the US values.

Conclusions: Difficulty in being self-employed created low numbers in some specialties, and highly urban-biased distributions of these specialists in Japan.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Japan
  • Medicine*
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Private Practice*
  • Professional Practice Location*
  • United States