Differences In Starting Pay For Male And Female Physicians Persist; Explanations For The Gender Gap Remain Elusive

Health Aff (Millwood). 2020 Feb;39(2):256-263. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00664. Epub 2020 Jan 22.


A large literature has documented differences in salary between male and female physicians. While few observers doubt that women earn less, on average, than men do, the extent to which certain factors contribute to the salary difference remains a topic of considerable debate. Using ordinary least squares regression and Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition models for new physicians who accepted positions in patient care for the years 1999-2017, we examined how the gender gap in total starting pay evolved and the extent to which preferences in work-life balance factors affect the gap. We found that the physician earnings gap between men and women persisted over the study period. Interestingly, despite important gender differences in preferences for control over work-life balance, such factors had virtually no ability to explain the gender difference in salary. The implication is that there remain unmeasured factors that result in a large pay gap between men and women.

Keywords: Ambulatory care; Emergency departments; Gender gap; Health policy; Health professional shortage areas; Hospital care; Hospitals; Patient care; Physician burnout; Physician salary; Physicians; Surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Physicians*
  • Physicians, Women*
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Sex Factors