Spouses of female physicians are more likely to work more hours outside of the home compared with spouses of male physicians, according to data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In an analysis of data from the American Community Survey (ACS) obtained between 2000 and 2015, Dan P. Ly, MD, MPP, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues compared self-reported occupation, personal income, hours worked outside the home, and graduate education status between spouses of male vs female physicians.

The report included 42,903 couples, comprising 30,898 male physicians and 17,625 female physicians. While 17.1% of male physicians were married to female physicians, 31.4% of female physicians were married to male physicians. Spouses of male physicians earned a mean of $27,218 annually compared with $97,761 for the spouses of female physicians.  In addition, 46.0% of spouses of male physicians worked 0 paid hours outside the home compared with 8.8% of female physicians’ spouses.

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In couples with only 1 physician, the average number of children was higher in families with a male physician (1.86) vs a female physician (1.40). Male physicians in dual-physician couples had lower incomes than male physicians in single-physician couples, but worked a similar number of hours outside the home. In contrast, female physicians in dual-physician couples had lower incomes and worked fewer hours outside the home than female physicians in single-physician couples. Furthermore, in all female physicians, the average number of paid work hours decreased as the male spouse’s paid work hours increased, with female physicians working 49.9 hours weekly when male spouses worked 25 or fewer hours a week vs. 47.6 hours weekly when male spouses worked 40 or more hours per week.

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These findings are consistent with female physicians making increasing professional adjustments to accommodate spouses’ work and take on more household responsibilities. The investigators conceded, however, that these trends may not be specific to physicians but may reflect the effects of continuing traditional gender roles.


Ly DP, Seabury SA, Jena AB. Characteristics of U.S. physician marriages, 2000-2015: an analysis of data from a U.S. Census Survey [published online November 20, 2017]. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.7326/M17-1758