A racial compensation disparity among physicians across numerous specialties is well documented and persists after adjustment for age, sex, experience, work hours, productivity, academic rank, and practice structure. This study examined national survey data to determine whether there are racial differences in compensation among anesthesiologists in the United States.
In 2018, 28,812 active members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists were surveyed to examine compensation among members. Compensation was defined as the amount reported as direct compensation on a W-2, 1099, or K-1, plus all voluntary salary reductions (eg, 401[k], health insurance). Covariates potentially associated with compensation were identified (eg, sex and academic rank) and included in regression models. Racial differences in outcome and model variables were assessed via Wilcoxon rank sum tests and Pearson’s χ2 tests. Covariate adjusted ordinal logistic regression estimated an odds ratio (OR) for the relationship between race and ethnicity and compensation while adjusting for provider and practice characteristics.
The final analytical sample consisted of 1952 anesthesiologists (78% non-Hispanic White). The analytic sample represented a higher percentage of White, female, and younger physicians compared to the demographic makeup of anesthesiologists in the United States. When comparing non-Hispanic White anesthesiologists with anesthesiologists from other racial and ethnic minority groups, (ie, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander), the dependent variable (compensation range) and 6 of the covariates (sex, age, spousal work status, region, practice type, and completed fellowship) had significant differences. In the adjusted model, anesthesiologists from racial and ethnic minority populations had 26% lower odds of being in a higher compensation range compared to White anesthesiologists (OR, 0.74; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.61–0.91).
Compensation for anesthesiologists showed a significant pay disparity associated with race and ethnicity even after adjusting for provider and practice characteristics. Our study raises concerns that processes, policies, or biases (either implicit or explicit) persist and may impact compensation for anesthesiologists from racial and ethnic minority populations. This disparity in compensation requires actionable solutions and calls for future studies that investigate contributing factors and to validate our findings given the low response rate.