Medical care employment in the United States, 1968 to 1993: The importance of health sector jobs for African Americans and women

Am J Public Health. 1996 Apr;86(4):525-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.4.525.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to elucidate the social and economic impact of health sector employment.

Methods: US medical care employment was analyzed for each year between 1968 and 1993, with data from the March Current Population Survey.

Results: Between 1968 and 1993, medical care employment grew from 4.32 million to 11.40 million persons, accounting for 5.7% of all jobs in 1968 and 8.4% in 1993. Today, one seventh of employed women work in medical care; they hold 78% of medical care jobs. One fifth of all employed African-American women work in medical care. African-Americans hold 15.5% of jobs in the health sector: they hold 24.1% of the jobs in nursing homes, 15.9% of the jobs in hospitals, but only 5.6% of the jobs in practitioners' offices. Hispanics constitute 6.4% of medical care employees. Real wages rose 25% to 50% between 1968 and 1993 for most health occupations. Wages of registered nurses rose 86%; physicians' incomes rose 22%. Wages of nursing home workers were far lower than those of comparable hospital workers, and the gap has widened. In 1993, 11.7% of all medical care workers lacked health insurance and 597 000 lived in poverty.

Conclusions: Hospital cuts and the continuing neglect of long-term care exacerbate unemployment and poverty among women and African Americans.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Employment / trends*
  • Female
  • Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Occupations / trends*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Women, Working / statistics & numerical data*