Analysis of Incomes of New Graduate Physician Assistants and Gender, 1998-2006

By Zorn, Jennifer; Snyder, Jennifer et al. | Journal of Allied Health, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Analysis of Incomes of New Graduate Physician Assistants and Gender, 1998-2006


Zorn, Jennifer, Snyder, Jennifer, Satterblom, Kyle, Journal of Allied Health


The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a gender-based difference in starting incomes paid to new graduate physician assistants. Data obtained from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) Division of Data Services and Statistics from 1998 through 2006, utilizing the Annual AAPA Physician Assistant Census and the Annual AAPA New PA Student Census, were analyzed using SPSS at an a level 0.05. A statistically significant difference was found between the incomes of male and female new graduates utilizing the t test for independent samples in each survey year and all years combined. In addition to gender, over 150 independent variables were evaluated by backward regression analysis. Gender remained statistically significant in all models of each year and all years combined. The results of the study indicate that female new graduate physician assistants received a lower income than their male counterparts, even when other confounders were considered. J Allied Health 2009; 38:127-131.

THERE HAS BEEN an influx of women into medical professions as physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, veterinarians, and dentists' (Table 1). Theories as to why professions undergo a feminization include shortage of male workers, employment of women due to the existence of antidiscrimination laws, decreased resistance by males to allow females to join the area of workforce, a loss of autonomy that decreased the job enticement for men, and an increase in female role models.2,3

In the 2000 US Census, it was reported that a female earns between 67% and 90% of a male's income.24 Gender disparity of income in favor of males has been noted across all professions.25 In the past, studies suggested lower compensation paid to women was a result of individual choices made by the female. The studies suggested that females worked comparatively fewer hours per week than males in order to stay home to care for family members or was a matter of the type of work performed by the female that warranted less pay on average than what a male chose.15,26

Interestingly, as women have taken on traditionally male roles, the income disparity has not reduced. A 2003 study evaluating the practice profiles of male and female graduates of a South Carolina family medicine residency program revealed responding male and female physicians have similar practice settings and arrangements; however, they differed significantly in reported salary ranges with p < 0.001. 27 Another study that specifically examined the income between male and female hospitalists showed female hospitalists earn significantly less than the males within the profession even after controlling for a wide range of confounders including similar training background (internal medicine), and both have similar mean monthly time in the hospitalist role, job satisfaction, and intent to remain working for 8 or more years. The difference in incomes existed despite the similar job structures for both, including work schedules and occupational commitments.14

In a 1998 study, a gender income gap for physical therapists was demonstrated in favor of males. Self-employed and salaried female physical therapists made 77% and 89%, respectively, of the average male counterparts' income.28 Gender-based differences in income among veterinarians with similar productivity showed females making 9% less than males.29 Mean starting incomes for female veterinarians in 1994 revealed that females make 4-43% less than males. This difference is of particular concern because male and female veterinarians should be more equal in all characteristics at the time of graduation.21 This discrepancy may affect incomes of all veterinarians, when one considers the theory that low incomes usually become the measuring point for all incomes.30

Of particular interest is the potential disparity in incomes based on gender of new graduate physician assistants (PA). If women are indeed earning less than men for comparable work, one result may be the decrease in mean income for all practitioners within all fields, as it appears may already be a significant issue within veterinary medicine. …

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