Physicians' median net income in 1992 rose at more than twice the inflation rate to $148,000, according to figures released by the American Medical Association late last month.
Physicians' median net income increased 6.5%, compared with a general inflation rate of 3% in 1992. A year earlier, physicians' median net income rose 6.9%, compared with a 1991 inflation rate of 4.2%.
Meanwhile, physicians' average net income rose 4% in 1992 to $177,400. Averages typically are higher than medians (See chart). The increase in average net income marks a slight rebound for the growth in average earnings, which fell below the general inflation rate in 1991 for the first time in seven years (Dec. 21/28, 1992, p. 24).
Radiologists enjoyed the biggest increase in average net income. Their pay rose 10.2% to $253,300. Pathologists suffered the most. Their average net income dropped 4.0% to $189,800.
The AMA's figures are based on a representative sample of about 4,000 physicians who are surveyed annually. Earnings figures represent net income after expenses but before taxes.
In its annual physician socioeconomic report, the AMA said, "Physician income is high in comparison with that of other occupations. There is no single explanation for why this is the case."
But like previous reports, the AMA offered several factors that should be considered when discussing how much physicians make:
|Undesirable aspects of the medical profession, such as long hours and stressful work, wouldn't be undertaken without "at least some expectation of appropriate economic remuneration."
|Many physicians don't start practicing until their early 30s.
|They have high educational debts.
The qualifications are aimed at tempering the AMA's annual release of physician earnings data, which typically draw negative publicity for physicians. But in a report released at last month's AMA House of Delegates, the association reaffirmed its collection and dissemination of physician earnings data and rejected calls from AMA members to discontinue the practice.
The report said it's in the AMA membership's best interest to collect and release the most accurate earnings data possible.-David Burda