Nursing Has Stubborn Pay Gap, New Study Finds

A new study shows that despite the ratio of women to men in the profession, male nurses make more money than female nurses, The New York Times reported. The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association did not offer theories about why a field so heavily populated with women would see higher salaries for men, but found that male nurses earn more across the different specialties within nursing and that this pay gap has remained constant between 1988 and 2013. Lead author Ulrike Muench said the researchers were surprised that the disparity in pay had not grown smaller over more than two decades' worth of data, studying nearly 300,000 nurses, according to the Associated Press.

We were somewhat surprised to see that this gap was so persistent over the years, given the female-dominated profession where you would think women may have caught up with men.

According to 2013 U.S. Census figures, only about 10 percent of the country's 2 million nurses were men, the AP reported. That number had tripled since 1970, however, when only 3 percent of nurses were men. The biggest gap according to the survey, is between male and female nurse anesthetists, among the highest-earning nurses in the profession, and the one with the biggest percentage of men — about 40 percent, according to the AP. In that specialty, men made an average of $17,300 more per year than women. But the differences in pay for other nursing specialties were not insignificant: The gap for cardiology nurses was about $6,000, and male nurses in chronic care specialties were ahead of their female colleagues by about $3,800 per year, The Times reported.

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News reports offered varying theories that were depressingly familiar to explain the gap: There's a gender bias, men are seen as more authoritative, men negotiate better salary increases, and women who leave the workforce temporarily to have children are at a disadvantage.

When you break it down, we shouldn't be overly surprised that despite the overwhelming number of female nurses, there's still a difference in nurses' salaries. The recent study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found gender pay equality won't happen until 2058, if things stay on their current trend.

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A spokesman for the American Nurses Association praised the study and its researchers, and told the AP that since nursing is a highly skilled field, the results were troubling. Peter McMenamin told the AP:

Are we surprised? No. Are we dismayed? Yes. Any pay differentials should reflect differences in experience and skill and not simply differences in gender.

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