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Proportion of Black Physicians Has Changed Little Since 1900

TUESDAY, April 20, 2021 -- The proportion of Black physicians has increased by a small amount since 1900, according to a report published online April 19 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Dan P. Ly, M.D., Ph.D., from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, used the Decennial Census long form from 1900 to 2000 and data from the American Community Survey from 2010 to 2018 to examine trends in the racial diversity of physicians and racial differences in their incomes. Data were included for 149,840 physicians, including 4,891 Black physicians.

Ly notes that 11.6 percent of the population was Black, but only 1.3 percent of physicians were Black in 1900. The corresponding proportions were 9.7 and 2.8 percent in 1940, with 2.7 percent Black male physicians and 0.1 percent Black female physicians. Overall, 12.8 percent of the population was Black in 2018, while only 5.4 percent of physicians were Black (2.6 and 2.8 percent Black men and Black women, respectively). In 2018 dollars, the difference in median income between Black and White male physicians was about $68,000 in 1960 and $50,000 in 2018. In each survey year, these racial income differences were statistically significant.

"If medical leadership is serious about making the physician workforce more representative of the general population, much more effective policies need to be conceptualized and implemented," Ly said in a statement.

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