What Is the Financial Return to Being a Physician?

Monday, June 24, 2019: 1:45 PM
Madison B (Marriott Wardman Park Hotel)

Presenter: Joshua Gottlieb

Co-Authors: Maria Polyakova; Kevin Rinz; Victoria Udalova

Discussant: David Molitor

What is the return to the long investments required to enter a high-skilled occupation? We combine income tax and survey data to estimate the distribution of lifetime returns to becoming a physician, lawyer, dentist, and scientist. We develop techniques to simulate lifetime incomes from incomplete time series, and collect new data on complete schooling costs for each occupation. We then compare earnings across high-skilled occupations and across states. The distribution of physician earnings is far more compressed than the general population, while top inequality for lawyers is comparable to the general population. We compare physicians’ private returns with the social return from physician care, estimating the share of patient health value captured by physicians.