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Lifetime earnings for physicians across specialties.
Leigh-JP; Tancredi-D; Jerant-A; Romano-PS; Kravitz-RL
Med Care 2012 Dec; 50(12):1093-1101
BACKGROUND: Earlier studies estimated annual income differences across specialties, but lifetime income may be more relevant given physicians' long-term commitments to specialties. METHODS: Annual income and work hours data were collected from 6381 physicians in the nationally representative 2004-2005 Community Tracking Study. Data regarding years of residency were collected from AMA FREIDA. Present value models were constructed assuming 3% discount rates. Estimates were adjusted for demographic and market covariates. Sensitivity analyses included 4 alternative models involving work hours, retirement, exogenous variables, and 1% discount rate. Estimates were generated for 4 broad specialty categories (Primary Care, Surgery, Internal Medicine and Pediatric Subspecialties, and Other), and for 41 specific specialties. RESULTS: The estimates of lifetime earnings for the broad categories of Surgery, Internal Medicine and Pediatric Subspecialties, and Other specialties were $1,587,722, $1,099,655, and $761,402 more than for Primary Care. For the 41 specific specialties, the top 3 (with family medicine as reference) were neurological surgery ($2,880,601), medical oncology ($2,772,665), and radiation oncology ($2,659,657). The estimates from models with varying rates of retirement and including only exogenous variables were similar to those in the preferred model. The 1% discount model generated estimates that were roughly 150% larger than the 3% model. CONCLUSIONS: There was considerable variation in the lifetime earnings across physician specialties. After accounting for varying residency years and discounting future earnings, primary care specialties earned roughly $1-3 million less than other specialties. Earnings' differences across specialties may undermine health reform efforts to control costs and ensure adequate numbers of primary care physicians.
Physicians; Work-environment; Models; Statistical-analysis; Demographic-characteristics; Medical-personnel; Medical-services; Author Keywords: surgery; primary care; oncology; income; satisfaction
J. Paul Leigh, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California Davis School of Medicine, TB 168, Davis, CA 95616-8638
Grant; Cooperative Agreement; Agriculture
Issue of Publication
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
University of California - Davis
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
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