Women Who Want Equal Pay Should Think About Becoming Pharmacists

(Photo: Ged Carroll)

We’ve written before about Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz‘s research on the persistent gender wage gap in the U.S.  Now Goldin and Katz are back with a new working paper (abstract; PDF) on “the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today”:

Pharmacy has become a female-majority profession that is highly remunerated with a small gender earnings gap and low earnings dispersion relative to other occupations. We sketch a labor market framework based on the theory of equalizing differences to integrate and interpret our empirical findings on earnings, hours of work, and the part-time work wage penalty for pharmacists. Using extensive surveys of pharmacists for 2000, 2004, and 2009 as well as samples from the American Community Surveys and the Current Population Surveys, we explore the gender earnings gap, the penalty to part-time work, labor force persistence, and the demographics of pharmacists relative to other college graduates. We address why the substantial entrance of women into the profession was associated with an increase in their earnings relative to male pharmacists. We conclude that the changing nature of pharmacy employment with the growth of large national pharmacy chains and hospitals and the related decline of independent pharmacies played key roles in the creation of a more family-friendly, female-friendly pharmacy profession. The position of pharmacist is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today.

Unfortunately for women in other industries, Goldin and Katz conclude that the changes seem to have been driven primarily by structural changes in the industry, not a demand for more “family-friendly workplace amenities.” “The changes, moreover, do not appear to have resulted from legislation or anti-discrimination policy or licensing requirements or the regulation specific to the pharmacy profession,” they write. “Rather, a host of structural changes outside the realm of the labor market has increased the demand for pharmacists and reorganized work in ways that have made pharmacy a more family-friendly and female-friendly profession.”

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Cor Aquilonis says:

    Women Who Want Equal Pay Should Think About Becoming Pharmacists – I mean – Should Be Paid The Same As A Man With Who Has Equal Responsibilities, Experience, and Education No Matter What Career They Choose


    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13
    • Levi says:

      …..Unless They Come With Higher Costs To Their Employers.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4
      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12
      • Seminymous Coward says:

        Doing the same work in no way implies generating the same costs. Your sentiment is admirable, but Levi definitely found a hole in your suggestion. Perhaps you should correct yourself instead of attempting to change the meaning of the words you’ve used.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
      • Some Random Economist says:

        The reason advocates talk about “equal” work instead of the same work is that they’re only interested in that work being equal along dimensions that are convenient for them.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

        Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11
      • Corban Saezer says:

        *casually wears labcoat upon shoulders, and clicks his laser pointer*

        Your metaphor works against you, “Dr.” Aquilonis; if you’ve ever used an electron microscope, you would know that even the smoothest surface to the naked eye is as bumpy as the Grand Canyon on the atomic level. But let’s roll with that metaphor.

        “Smooth from afar, rocky up close” is at the heart of the conversation. Up close, everyone’s different, but from afar we would like people to be somewhat interchangeable; no one should have any enduring advantage as a result of their race, color, gender, or creed. Think about that for a moment: the main ways you frame your identity should be IRRELEVANT in an ideal, egalitarian world.

        Let’s turn things around: known dimensions of pay are longer hours, willingness to do hazardous jobs, and willingness to forego human contact. So if women as a group are being paid less, why are women as a group not willing to give up their freedom, risk their lives and be alone for money?

        Annnddd that’s the end of today’s lecture. *click*

        Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • 1 percenter says:

      Wrong. Someone can have equal responsibiltieis, experience, and education, but be less productive. We should leave salary decisions to employers so that they can bear the risk of paying a higher salary to a less productive man. In a compeititve marketplace, this decision will be at the peril of a company.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • jack sprat says:

      When my neighbor’s eldest daughter hired on as a public accountant for a large firm, she routinely refused overtime during tax season. (Any man who did so would have been fired.) When her partnership review eventually came up, her arguments sounded very much like yours. Why do I suspect that you’ll prove unwilling or incapable of processing what it is that I’m trying to tell you?

      Because people who engage in identity politics always come off as if they were three years old when they are challenged?

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  2. 164 says:

    With a median annual wage of $113,190 (BLS/OES 2011) this occupation is way out of sync with reality and another reason for astronomically high prices for medical care. Sadly another industry at risk of offshoring to the far east where pharmacists make much, much less.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8
    • Enter your name... says:

      The pharmacist’s salary is only a small part of the cost of a prescription drug, and it is not unreasonable for someone who spent so many extra years in school, with a doctorate degree and a professional license, to get paid about twice what the average family does.

      Offshoring would be difficult, since the pharmacist needs to oversee the operations. You can’t make sure that the pharmacy techs are properly controlling and dispensing the medications, and not illegally giving medical advice to customers, if you’re not in the pharmacy with them. With few exceptions (one in Alaska, to serve very remote communities), most states require a pharmacist to be physically present. They don’t get to telecommute.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
    • Seminymous Coward says:

      It’s license-based.

      Also, retail makes the most and is clearly difficult to offshore, unless you don’t mind waiting a few days for shipping on those antibiotics for your sick kid. Retail employment is far more threatened by pill-counting machines and associated software, which could potentially mean even the busiest pharmacy only needs a single pharmacist and pair of pharmacy technicians for filling prescriptions.

      Compounding is immune to off-shoring for freshness reasons. Clinical is as unlikely to be offshored as your primary care physician for the same reasons. Medication therapy management consulting could potentially be done over the phone, I suppose; however, the major retail chains are hungry for that Part D money, so I’m pretty sure there will be stiff competition from ubiquitous face-to-face offerings.

      I’m sure you offshore all your personal professional services, though, right? There’s no reason to actually meet your doctor, accountant, lawyer, architect, nurse, or any of the various engineers, after all.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
      • Mark says:

        The main drivers in pharmacy cost reduction are domestic mail order pharmacies with auto-renewal programs for chronic condition prescriptions. A staff pharmacist can review hundreds of prescriptions per day and approve them electronically. This is already the practice at the major mail order pharmacies.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  3. Mark says:

    The benefits of a career in pharmacy were well established as far back as the 1980’s. I am surprised to see that the gender distribution of current graduates is 65% female in the US today which is up from 14% in the mid 1960’s (page 11 of the pdf file). When I* was in pharmacy school in Germany in the late 1970’s the distribution was already 70%+ female and has grown to 95%+ female. (*I switched to a career in biotechnology in the early 1980’s but thats another topic). The growth in employment for pharmacists is driven by the growth in total hours needed to support pharmaceutical healthcare delivery. These hours can’t be delivered by independent pharmacies at constant costs. The article is claiming that the structural changes in the industry are contributing factors. In my own assessment, however, they are the driving factors.

    Interesting point: similar patterns are emerging in other healthcare professions. Many physicians are now practicing in Physicians Associations which can help balance the workload and achieve lower overhead costs. It has not yet led to the possibility of increased part time work because the reimbursement models are still based on personal service such as consultations and procedures rather than outcomes. That is going to be changing radically in the next 10-20 years. {And it has to if we are to have adequate resources to meet the challenge of the obesity crisis.}

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Mark says:

    The article indicates that the fraction of current pharmacy school graduates is 65% female. I find that to be surprisingly low. When I was in pharmacy school in Germany in the late 1970’s it was about 70% female and has since grown to >90% female. A primary attraction of the profession has always been the availability of well paid part time and itinerant work. Licensed pharmacists who maintain their license and fulfill their continuing education requirements can stop work or go back at any time with no significant penalty. If the study were to expand beyond the specifics of the US market, they would have found that it is independent of the business structure (independent retail vs. chain pharmacies vs. mail order) or the specific job setting (retail pharmacy vs. hospital). It is a unique characteristic of the profession which combines scientific knowledge, regulatory licensing and patient contact.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Liz says:

    Look, it’s great that pharmacy is a good career for women, and I’m happy that women pharmacists earn equal pay and have flexible hours. But this profession has very high barriers to entry, with so much extra school and licensing requirements. Not to mention that this condition is really unique to pharmacy — few, if any, other skilled professions have professionals that are as interchangeable. Shouldn’t women just be paid equally in all professions? Women shouldn’t have to seek out specific professions to be treated like a full human being.

    The question we should really be asking is, “What characteristics of this profession can we extend to all workplaces?”

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
    • Seminymous Coward says:

      Pharmacists are only even remotely close to “interchangeable” in low-volume retail settings. Clinical, compounding, nuclear, and consulting pharmacists are just as differentiated as any other variety professional. Even high-volume retail pharmacy requires a pharmacist with the specific experience necessary to fill fast enough to meet demand; a pharmacist who can (safely!) fill 40 scripts an hour is far more useful than one who can only fill 10, at least if your average volume is 20.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Denis says:

      Women are paid equally for equal work. They are paid less because they take more sick days, apply for promotions less, leave for children, etc. This analysis was carried out by one of the departments of the U.S. government.

      In conclusion women are treated fine, they just need to work harder across the board.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4
  6. Susan says:

    The reason women take more time off is because most of them have husbands who also work so even if they are the primary breadwinner they still bear the brunt of housework, managing school and sports schedules and caring for children. I know of many female sr executives who get the first call from school for a sick child. I work much harder than my male counterparts with stay at home wives because i dont have time to waste.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  7. vani says:

    i am a student pursuing my pharm-D course…its quite an encouraging article…cos we always have people around to constantly put us down…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0