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Is a male nurse worth $5,148 more than a female nurse?

iStock | Machine Headz
iStock | Machine Headz

According to a recent article by the LA Times, it still “pays to be a man,” even in the nursing world, which is comprised largely of women—90%, in fact.

We’ve reported on the wage gap before, and now a recent study suggests that registered male nurses earn nearly $11,000 more per year than females. Also noteworthy? Only half of that disparity can be traced to factors such as education, specialty and experience.

This means that a $5,148 seemingly arbitrary gap in wages remains to place male nurses ahead of women in the salary game—a gap that ultimately touches more than 2.5 million women and their families.

The study was led by Ulrike Muench—a nurse practitioner with a doctorate from Yale University who studies nursing, health policy and healthcare economics at UC San Francisco. Here’s a breakdown that the article provides:

Muench and her colleagues from Yale and Vanderbilt University examined two decades’ worth of salary information from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. Before the survey ended in 2008, it collected data once every four years from more than 30,000 RNs across the country. Altogether, the study sample included responses from 87,903 full-time RNs, 93% of whom were women.

The results?

The average salaries for men were $10,775 higher than for women. That discrepancy can be seen in every survey year going back to 1988.

Then, the team took into account factors such as:

  • Location
  • Hours per week
  • Degrees

Even then, men still earned $5,148 more than women (which is equal to an 8% boost for men). The research likewise indicated:

In some nursing specialties, the gap was even greater. In cardiology, for instance, male RNs earned $6,034 more than their female counterparts.

Workplace mattered too. Nurses who cared for hospital patients took home $3,873 more per year if they were men, according to the study. In outpatient settings, men earned $7,678 more than women.

But the study is not without criticism. Peter McMenamin, a healthcare economist for the American Nurses Association, hails the survey as “well done,” but similarly suggests that it’s not without its faults. Specifically:

McMenamin suggested that limitations in the data used in the JAMA study might have overrepresented the size of the wage gap — and that nursing, as a field, was more equitable than most.

Not surprisingly, many female nurses are not satisfied with this report.

Erica Beltran, a nurse at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, said she had seen situations in which nurses who had been working the same number of years as her got paid more “just because they’re male.”

“It’s outrageous that today in 2015 we’re still having these disparities based on gender,” she said.

But Muench and her team aren’t finished with the topic…

Muench said union participation and whether female nurses had taken time out of the workforce to have children would be factors her team might study in the future to better understand why men’s wages outstripped women’s.

In the meantime, she said she hoped the new research would “start a conversation” between nurses and their employers.

Want to know more? You can read the full article here. Then, let us know what you think about the issue in the comments section below.

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