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Barriers to Entering Medical Specialties

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  • Sean Nicholson

Abstract

Non-primary care physicians earn considerably more than primary care physicians in the United States. I examine a number of explanations for the persistent high rates of return to medical specialization and conclude that barriers to entry may be creating an economic shortage of non-primary care physicians. I estimate that medical students would be willing to pay teaching hospitals to obtain residency positions in dermatology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, and radiology rather than receiving the mean residents' salary of $34,000. In the simulation, the quantity of residents in these four specialties would increase by an estimated six to 30 percent, rates of return would fall substantially, and teaching hospitals would save an estimated $0.6 to $1.0 billion per year in labor costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Sean Nicholson, 2003. "Barriers to Entering Medical Specialties," NBER Working Papers 9649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9649
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9649.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:mes:challe:v:33:y:1990:i:3:p:56-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Leland, Hayne E, 1979. "Quacks, Lemons, and Licensing: A Theory of Minimum Quality Standards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1328-1346, December.
    3. Morris M. Kleiner, 2000. "Occupational Licensing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 189-202, Fall.
    4. Cotton M. Lindsay, 1973. "Real Returns to Medical Education," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(3), pages 331-348.
    5. McGuire, Thomas G., 2000. "Physician agency," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 461-536 Elsevier.
    6. MaCurdy, Thomas E & Pencavel, John H, 1986. "Testing between Competing Models of Wage and Employment Determination in Unionized Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 3-39, June.
    7. Nicholson, Sean & Song, David, 2001. "The incentive effects of the Medicare indirect medical education policy," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 909-933, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Larry Samuelson & Andrew Postlewaite & George Mailath, 2007. "Pricing in Matching Markets," 2007 Meeting Papers 531, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Mailath, George J. & Samuelson, Larry & Postlewaite, Andrew, 2013. "Pricing and investments in matching markets," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(2), May.
    3. Sean Nicholson & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2002. "Physician Income Prediction Errors: Sources and Implications for Behavior," NBER Working Papers 8907, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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