The changing geographic distribution of board-certified physicians

N Engl J Med. 1980 Oct 30;303(18):1032-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198010303031803.


We studied the recent distribution of board-certified specialists among cities and towns of different sizes. Between 1960 and 1977, diplomates of the eight specialty boards that we studied appeared for the first time in many small nonmetropolitan towns. The percentage increase in numbers of specialists in small towns significantly exceeded that in cities, but the absolute increase in specialists per 100,000 persons was greater in metropolitan areas. Our findings suggest that the increased supply of specialists activated market forces that caused the observed changes in distribution. It is also possible that a new preference for small-town living has contributed to this evolving pattern. If an increase in physician supply has been the major force responsible for the movement into nonmetropolitan areas, this trend implies that smaller and smaller towns will acquire board-certified specialists as the number of physicians increases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology
  • Certification
  • Choice Behavior
  • Dermatology
  • General Surgery
  • Gynecology
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Workforce*
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Physicians, Family / supply & distribution
  • Radiology
  • Rural Health
  • Specialization*
  • Specialty Boards
  • United States
  • Urban Population