Monday, September 24, 2007

We've Got A Lawyer Surplus and Doctor Shortage; Why Couldn't It Be the Other Way Around?

From the front page today's WSJ, an article about the oversupply of lawyers, "Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers; Law Schools Proliferate:"

"On the supply end, more lawyers are entering the work force, thanks in part to the accreditation of new law schools and an influx of applicants after the dot-com implosion earlier this decade. In the 2005-06 academic year, 43,883 Juris Doctor degrees were awarded, up from 37,909 for 2001-02, according to the American Bar Association (see chart above). Universities are starting up more law schools in part for prestige but also because they are money makers. Costs are low compared with other graduate schools and classrooms can be large. Since 1995, the number of ABA-accredited schools increased by 11%, to 196."

MP: Now, if we could only have an outcome similar to this for medical schools and graduates from medical school, which have remained constant at 125 schools and 16,000 graduates, respectively, for at least the last 20 years (see chart above).

Unfortunately, "the marketplace doesn't determine how many doctors the nation has, as it does for engineers, pilots and other professions. The number of doctors is a political decision, heavily influenced by doctors themselves."

Result: We now have a doctor shortage and a lawyer surplus. The difference is that the lawyer surplus will eventually correct itself as law school graduates face falling wages and declining employment opportunities, resulting in fewer students being attracted to law. As long as medical schools and the number of graduates are artifically restricted, the doctor shortage will continue, especially for the "Family and General Practitioner" category (see chart below).


At 9/24/2007 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a very simple's because of lawsuits.

At 9/24/2007 11:56 AM, Blogger Bruce Charlton said...

Quite correct - and the US medical profession also does everything it can get-away-with to stop immigration of doctors from places like the UK - thereby preventing the doctor shortage from being eased in the obvious way.

The UK has a similar chronic doctor shortage which has a similar cause - although the UK shortage is exacerbated by the fact that the national government pays most of the cost of training doctors, and the training is very expensive, so they try to minimize this.

However the UK doctor shortage is always being ameliorated by an open door policy towards medical immigration, and a continual influx of doctors from elsewhere.

Incidentally, one major cause of the doctor shortage is the increasing proportion of female graduates, since they work on average a much smaller number of hours in their medical career. So a static rate of medical graduate production actually translates as a very significant decline in medical 'man hours'.

At 9/24/2007 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Immigration of physicians is a short term solution, as the rest of world would quickly tire of having their newly trained (at great expense) physicians siphoned off to the US.

Bruce is correct in that the cost of physician training is an issue, but it applies almost equally to the US. Most physicians shoulder a small amount of the approximately 1 million dollars it takes to train them...the bulk comes from state and federal tax dollars, not medical school tuition.

The medical profession is certainly guilty of limiting training, but correcting that is not an easy prospect. Perhaps a new paradigm in physician training is needed.


At 3/28/2008 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread is full of errors.

First off, the number of medical schools is not 125, its closer to 150. You are ignoring osteopathic schools, which produce much higher numbers of family and prinmary care doctors than allopathic (MD) programs.

Secondly, medical schools are expanding like crazy. Since 2001, there are over 35 new or planned medical schools (both MD and DO) in development.

Here's a list of the new medical schools:


MD - University of Hawaii-Kakaako - 2006
DO - Touro/Las Vegas - 2005
DO - PCOM/Atlanta - 2005
MD - University of Miami/FAU joint program - 2004
MD - Cleveland Clinic/Lerner - 2004
DO - LECOM/Bradenton - 2004
MD - Florida State University - 2002
DO - VCOM - 2002
DO - Rocky Vista University COM - 2008 (first class being accepted now)


MD - Florida International Univ - 2008
MD - Univ Central Florida - 2008
MD - Touro/NJ - 2008
DO - Touro (Harlem NY) - 2008
DO - Pacific Northwest (Yakima WA) - 2007
MD - Michigan State University (Grand Rapids MI) - 2008
MD - University of Arizona (Phoenix AZ) - 2007
DO - AT Still University (Mesa AZ) - 2007
DO - Lincoln Memorial/Debusk (Harrogate TN) - 2007
DO - William Carey Univ (Hattiesburg, MS, - 2009
MD - Commonwealth/Scranton (Scranton, PA,
MD - MCG-UGA/Athens (


MD - University of Cal Merced (Merced CA)
MD - University of Cal Riverside (Riverside CA)
MD - Texas Tech - El Paso (El Paso TX)
MD - OHSU (Eugene OR)
DO - MSUCOM (Detroit MI)
DO - Barry University (Miami FL)
MD - CUNY/Hunter College (NY, NY)
MD - Virginia Tech/Carilion (private, Roanoke VA)
MD/DO - Central Michigan University (
MD - Oakland University (Michigan)
MD/DO - St Thomas (St Paul MN)
MD - Touro New Jersey
MD - Hofstra Univ (
MD - Mercer/Savannah (
DO - WesternU COM/Lebanon OR (
MD - Univ Washington/Spokane (

Edit (6/05/06): BarryU in Miami recently announced plans for a new DO school
Edit (9/14/06): AT Still announced plans to join AOA application cycle
Edit (9/14/06): Lincoln/Debusk announced plans to join AOA application cycle
Edit (9/30/06): CUNY/Hunter announces plans for a new med school in next 5 years
Edit (1/07/07): VT/Carilion announce plans for first privately operated MD school, scheduled for 2010
Edit (04/22/07): CMU announces an initial exploration for a new med school
Edit (07/25/07): ST Thomas announces plans for new med school
Edit (07/28/07): Oakland Univ announces plans for new MD program
Edit (11/17/07): Touro announces plans for new DO program in NJ
Edit (11/27/07): William Carey Univ announces new DO program in MS
Edit (11/28/07): Hofstra Univ announces plans for new MD school (2010 projected start date)
Edit (11/29/07): Commonwealth/Scranton program added, accepting applicants in 2009
Edit (02/08/08): Mercer announces plans for new medical school branch in Savannah
Edit (02/09/08): Western COM announces plans for new DO school in Lebanon, Oregon
Edit (02/09/08): Univ Washington announces plans for new branch campus in Spokane
Edit (02/10/08): MCG and Univ of Georgia announces plans for a new MCG branch campus in Athens.

Total count of new/expanding programs: 37
Estimated increase in number of graduates per year: 5300
% Increase in new grads per year above 2002 levels: 33.1%


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