Would Women Have Been Better Off As Assistants Than As Doctors?
According to M. Keith Chen and Judith Chevalier of the Yale School of Management, these results are due to two factors; the first is a gap in wages, considering that the hourly wage for female doctors is less than that of male doctors, whilst the second, most significant reason is that the majority of female doctors work insufficient hours to offset their expensive training costs in comparison with PAs.
Chevalier pointed out: "One of the takeaways here is it's not all wage gap. It's mostly an hours gap. Many women who become doctors simply don't work enough hours to amortize the upfront costs. It's also true for some men, but a much smaller fraction."
The team utilized data on thousands of doctors and PAs from the Robert Wood Johnson Community Tracking Physician Survey and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, which included wages and hours worked for both genders in both professions. Using this data, the researchers calculated the net present value (NPV), which is used to determine whether the gains from a long-term venture are worth the costs, for both occupations, whilst accounting for training costs in time and money for both of these professions.
The average males has a substantially higher financial gain as a doctor, with an average NPV of $2.3 million compared to those who become a PA, whose NPV is around $1.9 million. However, the average NPV for female doctors is $1.67 million, compared with an average NPV of $1.68 million as a PA.
The researchers noted that the main reason for the difference in NPV in male and females is due to the fact that females usually work fewer hours than their male counterparts in the prime of their careers. Whilst the average working hours for male and female doctors is similar during the early stages of their careers, between the ages of 31 to 35 years, the average male was noted to work an average of 50 hours per week compared 40 hours per week for females. The gap in working hours remained unchanged until the age of 55 years.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence, which indicate that women may be over-investing in professional degrees, although the researchers are unclear of the underlying reasons when women can make higher returns in other professions.
Chevalier states that one explanation could be that women believe that being a doctor gives them greater satisfaction, but he states that it could also be that women "don't foresee the extent to which they're going to cut back working when they have kids. There are lots of reasons the decision to be a doctor could be rational. But for the median woman, it doesn't make financial sense."
Written by Petra Rattue