8-reyes 2007 - Gender and Labor Market outcoMes Reaching...

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407 In the past 30 years, more and more women have become physicians, receiving training that is indistinguishable from that of their male coun- terparts. This standardization of human capital accumulation, together with the existence of well-defined specialty categories and clear pro- ductivity measures, renders the physician labor market well suited to economic analysis of gen- der discrimination. The literature indicates that gender gaps in income have faded somewhat, but still persist even within medical special- ties. Much of this literature, however, uses older data, does not look at trends over time, or does not take appropriate account of medical special- ties or shifts in the age and gender composition of physicians. This paper focuses on the specialty of obstet- rics and gynecology (ob-gyn) to gain insight into gender discrimination among highly educated men and women and its evolution in the last 20 years. Ob-gyn is an attractive choice for a number of reasons. First, human capital and production can be measured consistently and accurately. Second, the number of women in the specialty has grown dramatically. While only 12 percent of ob-gyns were female in 1980, the share of women in the field reached 22 percent by 1990 and 40 percent by 2005. Third, ob-gyn is a surgical specialty with an arduous training process. Such specialties have been tradition- ally male dominated, stressful, and challeng- ing (Janet Bickel 2000). Fourth, there may be discrimination in favor of females on the part Gender and Labor Market outcoMes Reaching Equilibrium in the Market for Obstetricians and Gynecologists By Jessica Wolpaw Reyes* of patients—all patients are female and many prefer a female physician. This paper investigates the operation of the market for ob-gyns and their services. I start by noting the existence of an initial excess demand for female ob-gyns relative to male ob-gyns (arising from patient preference), and continue to investigate its consequences in the short and long run. In the short run, a competitive market would likely evince higher prices for female ob- gyns. The inelasticity of supply (attributable to low annual turnover, a fixed number of residency positions, and an eight-year production time for new physicians) would most likely inhibit any supply response in the short run. In the long run, a greater elasticity of supply and the gradual eas- ing of barriers to entry for women might permit a supply response. The supply of female ob-gyns could increase, mitigating price differentials by gender. However, noncompetitive features of the markets interfere with these adjustments: prices are often set by third-party payers rather than by the market, and quantities are slow to adjust for the reasons just mentioned. It seems unlikely that the competitive equilibrium would be reached easily or quickly.
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