It’s 2016 and the United States has already seen a black president. We're also closer than ever to seeing a woman become president, but throughout the country, minorities and women still face extreme pay disparities. As shown in a recent study from Harvard University, not even black and female doctors are immune from this social injustice.

The study, which is now published online in the journal The BMJ, looked at pay and hours worked of more than 60,000 black and white doctors of both genders who practiced medicine in various states from 2000 through 2013. The team also corroborated this data with information from a smaller study that included 8,000 physicians and covered the years 2000 through 2008.

In doing so, the researchers found striking disparity in pay based on nothing more than the doctors’ race and gender. For example, white male doctors earned on average $253,042 a year compared to $188,230 for black male doctors. Females doctors earned less than males of both races, with white female doctors pulling in an average of $163,234 a year. Still, this was more than what black female doctors can expect to earn; they only earn an average of $152,784 a year.

Who you are makes a big difference in how much you can earn practicing medicine in America. Pixabay, Public Domain

And while it's true that the type of medicine and where it's practiced has an effect on what doctors can expect to earn, the research found that even these factors could not explain the overbearing salary differences. The researchers adjusted for specialty, number of years in practice, number of hours worked, practice type, and other factors known to influence doctors' income, and still got the same results. Senior study researcher Dr. Anumpan Jena said in a recent statement that the findings are “deeply concerning.”

"Unfortunately, this means that medicine has not been spared the disparities by race and sex that plague the rest of the U.S. labor market," said Jena.

Research has shown that race does not only play a role in how much doctors are paid, but also in how doctors treat patients. For example, one study published earlier this year found doctors give less sympathetic, non-verbal cues to seriously ill black patients. Unfortunately, this behavior has a trickle-down effect and can lead to poor communication and higher rates of aggressive, life-sustaining measures for terminal illness. In addition, another study found that mental health therapists are less likely to offer their services to potential black patients and working class patients than they would be to patients of other demographics.

The hope is that highlighting the pay disparity that exists between physicians of both genders and different races will help in efforts to achieve pay equity. "If the goal is to achieve equity or to give incentives for the best students to enter medicine, we need to work on closing both the black-white gap and the gender gap in physician incomes," concluded Jena.

Source: Jena A, et al. Differences in incomes of physicians in the United States by race and sex: observational study. The BMJ. 2016