Patterns of medical employment: A survey of imbalances in Urban Mexico

J. Frenk, J. Alagon, G. Nigenda, A. Munoz-delRio, C. Robledo, L. A. Vaquez-Segovia, C. Ramirez-Cuadra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This article quantifies the magnitude and correlates of the major imbalances affecting the employment of physicians in the urban areas of Mexico. Since the early 1970s the country has experienced a rapid increase in the supply of doctors, which its health system was unable to absorb fully. In 1986, we conducted a survey in the 16 most important cities based on a probability sample of households where someone with an MD degree lived. A total of 604 physicans were interviewed for a response rate of 97 percent. The unemployment rate was 7 percent of potentially active physicians; 11 percent held a nonmedical job, and another 11 percent exhibited low productivity and/or income. All in all, we project that 23,500 physicians in these cities were either unemployed or underemployed. This medical employment pattern was analyzed against five independent variables: generation (i.e. the year in which the physician started medical school), gender, social origin, medical school quality, and specialty. Apart from generation, type of specialty exhibited the strongest correlation with the employment situation of a physician. The results suggest that higher education and health care in Mexico may be producing rather than correcting social inequalities. Policy alternatives are discussed to restore a balance between the training of physicians, their gainful employment, and the health needs of the population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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