A study published online in December 2021 in Health Affairs showed that female physicians may earn as much as $2 million less than their male counterparts over the course of a 40-year medical career, even after factors such as hours worked, clinical revenue, practice type, and specialty were accounted for (Health Affairs. [published online December 2021.] doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2021.00461).
Researchers used earnings data from 80,342 full-time U.S. physicians, gathered from 2014 to 2019, to create a simulation that estimated career differences in income between men and women. About 75% of the respondents were men and 25% were women. The mean number of years since the completion of clinical training was 18.7 years; of the respondents used for the simulation, 38% worked in group-based practices and 27.6% worked in hospital-based practices. The mean number of hours worked per week for all respondents was 57.5, and the mean annual income was $345,936.
Over the course of a simulated 40-year career, male physicians earned an average adjusted gross income of $8,307,327 compared with an average of $6,263,446 for female physicians—an absolute adjusted difference of $2,043,881 and relative difference of 24.6%. These differences increased most rapidly during the initial years of practice, but the pay gap remained stable after these initial years. Gender differences in career earnings were largest for surgical specialists (a $2.5 million difference), followed by nonsurgical specialists (a $1.6 million difference) and primary care physicians (a $900,000 difference).