Chiropractic Income Has Been Dropping Steadily

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Commerce conducts an economic census that tabulates the incomes of many industries and professions. Here are the figures for chiropractic, which the reports describe this way:

This industry comprises establishments of health practitioners having the degree of D.C. (Doctor of chiropractic) primarily engaged in the independent practice of chiropractic. These practitioners provide diagnostic and therapeutic treatment of neuromusculoskeletal and related disorders through the manipulation and adjustment of the spinal column and extremities, and operate private or group practices in their own offices (e.g., centers, clinics) or in the facilities of others, such as hospitals or HMO medical centers.

Year

1992

1997

2002

2007

Number of establishments

27,239

30,487

34,358

37,455

Receipts

$5.9 billion

$6.6 billion

$9.0 billion

$10.0 billion

Receipts per office 217,000 216,000 $262,000 $267,000
Annual payroll

$1.7 billion

$1.9 billion

$2.6 billion

$3.1 billion

Paid employees

84,730

91,700

109,734

NA

Now consider the inflation rates (Consumer Price Index) during the same time periods:

Time Period

1/92-12/96

1/97-12/01

1/02-12/07

Total

Inflation increase

14.8%

11.06%

18.60%

52.09%

Income change

-0.46%

21.3%

1.9%

23.04%

These figures indicate that between January 1992 and December 2007, the average gross income per chiropractic office rose at less than half the rate of inflation, which is equivalent to a loss of 20% in purchasing power. Since the cost of running the offices increased during this period, the purchasing power of the chiropractor's take-home pay was even lower. The next census report is scheduled for publication in December 2013.

Data from the The Health Education Assistance {HEAL) student loan program, which operated from 1978 through 1998, provide additional evidence that earning a living as a chiropractor can be difficult. The default rate of chiropractic students greatly exceeds the rates of students from medical, osteopathic, dental, veterinary, optometry, podiatry, public health, and pharmacy schools. In fact, since 1999, more than half the individuals on the Health Resources and Services Administration’s default list were former chiropractic college attendees [1].

I believe that chiropractors are in trouble because:

In January 2013, the president of the Arizona Chiropractic Society stated that insurance company denials have resulted in "hundreds of Arizona chiropractors closing their doors and many filing for bankruptcy." [2]

The Chiropractors Wife blog has many posts from chiropractors and ex-chiropractors who describe the terrible burden they have had with student loan debt and trying to earn a living after graduation [3].

Reference

  1. Barrett S. Chiropractic student loan default rates (1999 to 2012). Chirobase Web site. Feb 18, 2013.
  2. Immerman AM. Legislature convenes January 14th, ACS is ready. Arizona Chiropractic Society News, Jan 2013, p 1.
  3. Want to be a chiopractor? The Chiropractors Wife, March 4, 2011.

This article was revised on March 20, 2014..

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