University of Michigan researchers find that gender disparity in medicine remains, even after controlling for specializations and work titles.

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PROBLEM: Though previous studies have shown gender differences in physicians' pay, some experts say these disparities are really due to work hours, productivity, and specialization.

METHODOLOGY: University of Michigan investigators led by Reshma Jagsi focused on a homogeneous sample of physicians to rule out the effects of the career choices that doctors make. They surveyed 800 physicians, who had received a highly competitive early career research grant from the National Institutes of Health, to effectively narrow the pool to an extremely select, highly motivated group of physicians involved in academic medicine. They asked questions about age, income, medical specialty, marital status, work hours, time spent in research, number of peer-reviewed publications, location, race, additional grants, leadership roles, and other degrees.

RESULTS: The average annual salary of the respondents was $200,422 for men and $167,669 for women. After adjusting for factors that could potentially explain the pay differences, such as medical specialty, title, work hours, and productivity, the researchers still saw an income disparity of $12,001 a year or more than $350,000 over a career between male and female doctors who were doing similar work.

CONCLUSION: Male physicians make more money than their female counterparts.

IMPLICATION: Co-author Peter Ubel cautions against attributing the salary difference to conscious discrimination, noting that negotiation style may also contribute. Still, he says in a statement that academic medical centers should work to pay more fairly: "A person's salary should not depend upon whether they have a Y chromosome."

SOURCE: The full study, "Gender Differences in the Salaries of Physician Researchers," is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.