Compensation Issues

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Surgeons in Ozarks have best-paid position in US

Mean compensation data doesn't tell the whole story about which jobs are best-paid —it may not even come close.

Physicians may be surprised to hear surgeons from the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma metropolitan area actually hold the best paid occupation in America, according to an analysis in The Atlantic of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These surgeons have the best paid position not because they earn the most dollars, but because the cost of living allows those dollars to go farther than anywhere else in the country. Based on BLS data, surgeons in Fort Smith earn an annual mean salary of $274,180, but when adjusted for regional price parities, those physicians have the purchasing power of a salary of $320,304. By this same measure, surgeons from Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, are not far behind their peers in the Ozarks, earning a price-adjusted salary of $313,831.

In comparison, a surgeon in the New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island area, earns a price-adjusted salary of $191,907 and a surgeon in the San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, Calif., area earns a price-adjusted salary of $173,833.

However, as the BLS notes, price-adjusted wages matter even more to workers who earn lower wages. Instead, low-wage occupations tend to see a more pronounced effect when adjusting for purchasing power. The agency gives the example of food service workers and cashiers, occupations that earn the most dollars in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. However, after adjusting for purchasing power, their salaries fell in the bottom 25 percent nationally, according to BLS.

This data helps illustrate why recent minimum wage increases at hospitals and health systems are so important. Recent examples include the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Hospital and Bloomington-based Indiana University Health, which both increased their employees' hourly minimum wage to $11 per hour in February.

 

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