Understanding Pay Differentials Among Health Professionals, Nonprofessionals, And Their Counterparts In Other Sectors

Sherry Glied, Stephanie Ma and Ivanna Pearlstein
Health Affairs, 34, no.6 (2015):929-935

About half of the $2.1 trillion of US health services spending constitutes compensation to employees. We examined how the wages paid to health-sector employees compared to those paid to workers with similar qualifications in other sectors. Overall, we found that health care workers are paid only slightly more than workers elsewhere in the US economy, but the patterns are starkly different for nonprofessional and professional employees. Nonprofessional health care workers earn slightly less than their counterparts elsewhere in the economy. By contrast, the average nurse earns about 40 percent more than the median comparable worker in a different sector. The average physician earns about 50 percent more than a comparable worker in another sector of the economy, and this differential has increased sharply since 1993. Cost containment is likely to lead to reductions in the earnings of health care professionals, but it will also require using fewer or less skilled employees to produce a given service.

Wagner Faculty