Shut Down and Shut Out: Women Physicians in the Era of Medical Education Reform

Greg Niemesh, Miami University
Melissa Thomasson, Miami University
Carolyn M. Moehling, Rutgers University

Women made tremendous inroads into the medical profession in the late nineteenth century. By 1900, women constituted more than 10 percent of practicing physicians in some cities. Progress, however, did not continue into the twentieth century, as the fraction female among American physicians actually declined after 1900. This reversal is often linked to the professionalization of medical practice and the associated changes in medical education that led to a wave of medical school closures. Using a newly constructed panel data set of medical colleges, we show that women’s access to medical education was blocked not only by the closure of schools with traditionally high female enrollments, but also by the shrinking number of seats for women at the schools that survived. We find that female enrollment dropped when schools added requirements for pre-medical school college coursework and hospital internships. We also find that state regulations requiring hospital internships for physician licenses further decreased women’s enrollment in medical schools. Finally, we demonstrate that more strict state licensing rules disproportionately affected the supply of female physicians relative to male physicians.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 92. A History of the Labor Force