Significant pay gaps persist among minority and female physicians: 6 things to know

Average physician compensation in 2016 was $294,000 — but average pay for female physicians and all minority physicians fall below that benchmark, according to Medscape's 2017 Physician Compensation Report.

Here are six things to know about disparities in physician pay, based on data from the Medscape report.

1. The largest disparity in pay is between male and female physicians. However, age-based data indicates this issue is improving among younger physicians. Medscape found male physicians ages 55 to 69 made 27 percent more than female physicians in their age group. Among physicians under age 34, the gender pay gap was 18 percent in 2016.

2. Gender pay gaps are wider in specialties. Female primary care physicians earned 16 percent less than their male counterparts in 2016 ($197,000 versus $229,000). This gap is almost twice as large among specialty physicians. Female specialists earned 31 percent less than their male counterparts in 2016, according to the report. Average compensation for female specialists totaled $251,000, compared to male specialists' $345,000.

3. While the gap cannot be fully explained, there are a few differences in practice between male and female physicians, according to the report. For example, female physicians are more likely to be employed, and employed physicians tend to earn less than independent physicians. Female physicians are also twice as likely as their male counterparts to work part time (22 percent versus 11 percent). While Medscape only compares full-time compensation data, more part-time work could potentially slow pay increases. Lastly, a larger portion of female physicians choose lower paying specialties. For example, 53 percent of pediatricians — the lowest compensated specialty in 2016 — were female. However, these differences in practice cannot fully explain the gap in pay, according to the report.

4. The biggest disparity in pay in terms of race and ethnicity was between white physicians and black physicians. Black physicians earn 15 percent less than their white colleagues. In 2016, that meant the average black physician earned $262,000, compared to the average white physician's $303,000. After black physicians, the minority groups that earned the least were Hispanic and Latino physicians, with average compensation of $271,000 in 2016. Asian physicians earned the second most, at $283,000. All minority group averages fell below the overall average physician pay of $294,000 in 2016.

5. Minority groups are aware of this gap. Fewer minority respondents felt they were fairly compensated. Only 49 percent of Hispanic/Latino physicians felt they were fairly compensated, 50 percent of black physicians felt fairly compensated and 51 percent of Asian physicians felt fairly compensated. Comparatively, 57 percent of white physicians felt fairly compensated.

6. Minority physicians were more likely to serve in primary care specialties than white physicians. For example, 80 percent of white physicians identified as specialists, compared to 75 percent of Asian physicians, 72 percent of Hispanic/Latino physicians and 70 percent of black physicians.

 

Medscape surveyed more than 19,200 physicians across 26 specialties. Compensation for employed physicians includes salary, bonus and profit-sharing contributions. For independent physicians, compensation includes earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses, but before income tax.

Read the full report here.

 

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