Gender Differences in the Salaries of Physician Researchers

Study Questions:

Do salaries differ by gender among physician researchers?


Data for this study were obtained through a nationwide survey mailed to physicians in the United States who were identified as having received National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 and K23 awards between 2000 and 2003. Potential participants were excluded if no identifiable mailing address was available. Eligibility for the present analysis was limited to the 800 physicians who continued to practice at US academic institutions and reported their current annual salary. Variables included in the multivariate modes were self-reported. Current annual salary was constructed considering the following characteristics: gender, age, race, marital status, parental status, additional graduate degree, academic rank, leadership position, specialty, institution type, region, institution NIH funding rank, change of institution since K award, K award type, K award funding institute, years since K award, grant funding, publications, work hours, and time spent in research. The survey was conducted between 2009 and 2010.


The response rate for the survey was 71%. Men were more likely to be at a different institution than the one at which they had received their K awards. Women were less likely to hold administrative leadership positions. The mean salary within the cohort was $167,669 (95% confidence interval [CI], $158,417-$176,922) for women and $200,433 (95% CI, $194.249-$206,617) for men. Male gender was associated with higher salary (+$13,399; p = 0.001) even after adjustment in the final model for specialty, academic rank, leadership positions, publications, and research time. Peters-Belson analysis (use of coefficients derived from regression model for men applied to women) indicated that the expected mean salary for women, if they retained their other measured characteristics but their gender was male, would be $12,194 higher than observed. If one conservatively assumes a static, unexplained annual gender difference in salary of the size observed over a 30-year career, women in this group will end their careers having earned more than $350,000 less than similarly situated men, even without considering the compound interest on the investment of that extra income.


The investigators concluded that gender differences in salary exist in this select, homogeneous cohort of mid-career academic physicians, even after adjustment for differences in specialty, institutional characteristics, academic productivity, academic rank, work hours, and other factors.


This study highlights the importance of understanding key components of success in the academic arena. Although salary is only one component of a career, the repercussions of a lower salary are significant. Factors including job negotiations when changing academic institutions and obtaining leadership positions within an academic institution are likely to contribute to the difference in income between men and women.

Keywords: Physicians, Salaries and Fringe Benefits, Marital Status, National Institutes of Health (U.S.), Confidence Intervals, Gender Identity, United States

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