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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gender and the Choice of Physicians' Employment Status

  • Author(s): Custer, William S.
  • Dimon, Denise
  • et al.

During the last 15 years, women have substantially increased their share of traditionally male professional jobs. As recently as 1975, only 15 percent of the law degrees and 3 percent of the dentistry degrees were earned by women. In 1985, however, women earned 38 percent of the law degrees and 21 percent of the degrees in dentistry. Just as dramatic has been the increase in the number of women physicians. In 1975, women received 13 percent of the medical degrees and by 1985 this figure had increased to 30 percent. It is currently estimated that one-third of all medical students today are female. Generally, these types of figures are used to illustrate that gender differences in professional occupations are narrowing. However, in spite of the increase in the number of female physicians, there still exist several differences between male and female physicians. A number of studies have noted that differences exist across gender in physicians' choice of specialty, board certification, and work hours (Becker et al. 1984; Culler and Oshfeldt 1987; Mitchell 1984; Silberger et al. 1987). The factors that cause these gender differences in incentives are also going to affect the physician's choice of employment status. In fact, female physicians are nearly twice as likely to be employees than their male colleagues. Only 23.5 percent of male physicians were employees in 1985 compared with 45.5 percent of female physicians (Cotter 1986). The purpose of this study is to examine the role of gender with regards to physicians' employment status.

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