February 20, 2013
Review of Pharmacy Changes Brands It
“Most Egalitarian” Profession

Cambridge, MA—Is pharmacy “the most egalitarian of all professions?”

Two prominent Harvard University economists argue that it is—and that the profession is becoming more family friendly, to boot.

A paper written for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) by Claudia Goldin, PhD, and Lawrence F. Katz, PhD, is entitled, “The Most Egalitarian of All Professions: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation.” The NBER is arguably the nation's leading nonprofit economic research organization with 22 Nobel Prize winners in Economics and 13 past chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers having served as researchers.

The authors point out that 55% of pharmacists are now female, and that the percentage will only increase with women making up 65% of recent pharmacy school graduates today, compared to 14% in the mid-1960s. Yet, Goldin and Katz note, the profession is “highly remunerated with a small gender earnings gap and low earnings dispersion relative to other occupations.” The ratio of median female-to-male pharmacist earnings grew from 0.66 in 1970 to 0.92 in 2010, according to the paper.

The accompanying trends may not have been favorable for all pharmacists, however. The report describes the dramatic changes in the pharmacy profession over the last 50 to 100 years, including the rise of nationwide drug store chains and that the vast majority of drugs are now produced by pharmaceutical companies, not compounded in pharmacies and hospitals. The authors also examine issues such as the growing demand for pharmaceuticals because of the aging of the U.S. population, expanded Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, and new therapies developed for chronic conditions.

The biggest change, however, may have been to where pharmacists practice. Using a number of sources, including surveys of thousands of licensed pharmacists, Goldin and Katz note that the overall self-employment rate for pharmacists declined from 40% in the mid-1960s to less than 5% in 2010.

In the mid-1960s, 70% of all pharmacists worked at independent pharmacies. By this century, they write, nearly 65% of all licensed pharmacists could be classified as nonmanagerial employees, mostly working at national chains and hospitals, with the majority of the remaining pharmacists serving as managers. There also is a growing percentage of pharmacists who are working part-time and yet are still well compensated, they point out.

“We conclude that the changing nature of pharmacy employment with the growth of large national pharmacy chains and hospitals and the related decline of independent pharmacies played key roles in the creation of a more family-friendly, female-friendly pharmacy profession,” the authors write. “The position of pharmacist is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today.”

Interestingly, the paper doesn’t attribute dramatic changes in the pharmacy profession to outside forces such as legislation, antidiscrimination policies, licensing requirements, or regulations specific to the pharmacy profession. Instead, they suggest that the profession’s “compensation framework” has been altered because of the changing marketplace. They also point out another family-friendly issue fairly unique to the profession: Pharmacists are good substitutes for each other, which leads to more flexibility in work hours and scheduling than in many other professions.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect