Investigators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School examined changes in the availability of physicians in U.S. urban areas from 1980 to 1997.
The number of office-based primary care physicians grew from 1980 to 1997, and availability was higher in non-poverty areas.
The number of specialists and hospital-based physicians grew much faster in poverty areas during this period.
Physician availability is most strongly associated with the concentration of hospitals in an area.
No single policy aimed at altering the medical workforce showed a dramatic impact on physician availability.
In 1997, the availability of office-based primary care physicians in both high- and low-poverty areas was below levels considered adequate by a panel of 11 medical workforce experts polled by the principal investigator.