It’s pretty well established that white men earn more than women, and that white people earn more than black people in the U.S. But that disparity should disappear for a highly trained and specialized field like medicine, right?
Evidently not, according to a new study.
Even when they go through all the years of medical school, the agony of residency and specialty training — even when they are equally qualified — women and African-American physicians earn significantly less than their white male colleagues, the study found.
How much less? White male doctors earned on average $253,042 a year compared to $188,230 for black male doctors. Female doctors earned less than both groups — $163,234 for white female doctors and $152,784 for black female doctors.
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"Our findings are not only disconcerting for black male doctors but also highlight the lower incomes of female doctors relative to their male peers," said Dr. Dan Ly, a physician for the VA Boston Healthcare System who’s working on a PhD in economics at Harvard and who worked on the study.
“These income differences remained after adjustment for physician specialty, hours worked, practice characteristics, insurance mix, and geography,” Ly and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the British Medical Journal’s online publication The BMJ.
The male-female pay gap has been blamed on the types of jobs that women take – so-called ‘pink collar” jobs such as teaching or nursing. Women are also accused of hurting their career chances by taking time off to have children and by choosing more “flexible” jobs while men tend to dedicate themselves more to careers.
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But Ly found that even in the highly educated, demanding and male-dominated medical field, the disparities are dramatic.
"These findings are deeply concerning," said Dr. Anupam Jena, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School. "If the goal is to achieve equity or to give incentives for the best students to enter medicine, we need to work on closing both the black-white gap and the gender gap in physician incomes."
The team used two large surveys covering 60,000 physicians and their earnings from 2000 through 2013.
President Barack Obama has made the wage gap one of his final priorities. Last January he proposed new rules to make companies with more than 100 workers to provide the federal government annual data for how much they pay employees based on gender, race and ethnicity.
The U.S. has one of the more obvious pay gaps. It’s the largest out of 38 covered by the International Labour Organization's Global Wage Report, which shows U.S. men are paid on average 36 percent more than U.S. women.
Another study shows the global average full-time salary for a working woman is $11,102 a year, just over half of the working man's average salary of $20,554.