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What Percent of the US Population do Doctors Comprise?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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From 2004 census statistics of the US Labor Department and of the American Medical Association, there are approximately 885,000 (884,974) doctors in the US. This represents about 0.29% of the population or one-third of 1%. There is roughly one doctor to 300 people in the US.

However, not all doctors see all people. Only about 91,000 are general practitioners. This makes up only 0.03% of the total population, or one-thirtieth of 1%. Many medical professionals feel that the number of general practitioners is not adequate to the American population. They argue that the number of general practitioners needs to almost double in order to address the needs of Americans.

Unfortunately, there are many who are now loath to consider becoming doctors because incomes have not kept pace with inflation and education expenses. For example, malpractice insurance is now much higher than it was 20 years ago, given the rising costs of lawsuits. As well, education costs have risen, and mean the average medical student may have incurred over 100,000 US Dollars (USD) of student loan debt prior to beginning work.

Another concern is that compensation for doctors who take Medicare is now significantly lower than what one would charge the average patient. As well, insurance companies play a part by contracting for low medical fees as well. Many physicians feel the way to adequately address this issue and make compensation predictable and uniform is through a universal health program. Others argue that there are too many disadvantages to a government-run health program, and point to the poor administration and lack of compensation from current health programs like Medicare.

These arguments and the falling economic worth of being a physician often seems like too much of a hassle for potential new physicians. Doctors may choose to specialize instead, which tends to provide better compensation, or many students decide against healthcare on the whole.

Broken down by gender, women still make up less than half of all doctors. Even in obstetrics and gynecology, a field where many women prefer a female doctor, there are still more males than females. The only specialty that currently has more females than males is pediatrics, and the numbers are nearly even there, with only 3000 more female pediatricians than male pediatricians.

Races other than Caucasians are significantly underrepresented. Caucasians represent 47.8% of all physicians. Black doctors only make up 2.3%, and Hispanics about 3.2 %. The largest minority percentage is Asians, at 8.3% of all doctors.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon997061 — On Nov 10, 2016

US physicians of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese origin are overrepresented in medicine once we take into consideration the percentage of the US population that people of these origins comprise.

By anon250897 — On Feb 27, 2012

I'm a female medical student, third year. I agree that doctors may not have the earning potential they used to, but to say we have a "bad deal" is an inaccurate description of what we do.

I get to deliver babies, help someone who is writhing in pain feel well again, help ease the passing of a loved one, do life saving procedures that no regular person could hope to do. As a sales professional, what do you get to pat yourself on the back for at night? Making your quotas? I may never make a lot of money, but I don't care.

Yes, I have a lot of debt, yes I study 16-18 hours a day, but I'm not in it for the money or the prestige. I'm in it for my patients and I'm in it for me.

By anon189629 — On Jun 23, 2011

Boy, there are definitely no doctors in this bunch, or anyone with the brain power to accomplish such a task. If you don't understand "how the minority rate" adds up, you're really not smart. Obviously, they aren't going to spell out every single minority and ethnicity representing medical doctors in america. That list would be pretty exhaustive. They are highlighting the major percentages represented by the top minorities. "Other" minorities and mixed minorities will fill in the gaps. Duh. Can you spell "G.E.D"? (bright posters, please ignore).

Also, those opposed to others having health care so they won't have to wait for their precious surgeries are selfish jerks who don't value the rights of other americans to have basic medical care.

So just forget them, right? Typical problem with Americans: what can be done for me, me, me. We have resources but are behind many less developed countries in basic medical care for all Americans. Get a clue!

By anon177500 — On May 18, 2011

My buddy is a doctor-- just finished fellowship and he's got a pretty bad deal, if you ask me. I've been making more money than him for twelve years now, and those are some prime years -- early twenties through the thirties. He didn't get to enjoy those years because he was always working, and when he's not working he's always studying. I don't know of a tougher or more stressful job.

Now he's just gotten married, and he's not got to start paying off over $200K in loans. I've been investing money for twelve years, and I don't think he'll catch up to what I made (I'm in sales) until we're about 50 years old.

I think what he's doing is great, and I'm glad that we have someone to do it, but it's a really bad deal when you think about it. All of the stress with very little payback, if you ask me. Plus doctors aren't even respected or trusted anymore; people think they're money hungry and they get sued all the time.

By anon173887 — On May 08, 2011

I read the percentages again myself. It is the context. What they were trying to say:

1)47.8% of doctors that are physicians are caucasian.

2) (2.3%, 3.2%, and 8.3%) respectively out of all doctors. Meaning 87.2% of all doctors are caucasian.

By suntan12 — On Feb 18, 2011

UpNorth31 - I know it will be even more difficult to find a doctor if this healthcare bill does not go away. We will probably start seeing a lot of nurse practitioners taking the place of what a lot of doctors used to do.

But a nurse is not the same as a doctor. There will also be rationed care which will result in less services available and the mortality rate will rise too.

Doctors as it is are stretched rather thin if you add another thirty million patients to list we will all have to wait a very long time to receive those operations that we now just schedule.

In addition, there are a huge shortage of Obstetricians because of the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. There really ought to be more tort reform and a limit on judgments because a lot of great doctors are leaving the profession because they can’t make any money.

I also would like to see a loan forgiveness programs for doctors like what we have for teachers in this country.

This is a noble profession that has very high shortages. We have to do things to make more talented students want to join this field because the future doctors represent the state of our medical system.

By upnorth31 — On Feb 15, 2011

I think it's a little bit sad that people who might have it in them to be great doctors are influenced by the decreasing economic worth, and are deciding not to become doctors after all. I wish there was a way to make it worth it for these people to follow their dreams. I can definitely understand the hesitation -- from what I hear, it takes a ton of work and money to actually become a doctor. I could never do it.

On the other hand, I hope that the people who really have a passion for healing others are not deterred by the money aspects.

By calpat — On Feb 15, 2011

Wow, I was shocked to find out that the percentage of the population who are doctors is so low! I've never found it to be hard to find a doctor, so I guess I never really thought about the actual number of them that are available.

Perhaps I am just lucky enough to live in an area where there are an abundance of not only doctors, but good doctors, to choose from. Whether you are looking for a general practitioner or a specialized doctor, there are plenty to choose from.

To see the numbers put so bluntly though, is a little unnerving. It certainly doesn't sound like there are enough doctors for all of the people in the U.S.

By anon113196 — On Sep 23, 2010

The racial percentages in this article don't add up. If caucasians make up

47.8 percent, african american 2.3 percent, and Hispanic 3.2 percent, and asian 8.3 percent, unless there's an awful lot of native americans, we've only got 62.2 percent of docs having any ethnic heritage. Maybe the rest are aliens from another planet? I've occasionally had one I could believe that about!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia...
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