Publications / 2021 Edition — California Physicians

2021 Edition — California Physicians

A Portrait of Practice

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Although the number of active physicians increased by 21% between 2006 and 2018, and exceeded the 10% population growth, many areas in California face substantial shortages of primary care providers and specialists. California Physicians: A Portrait of Practice presents detailed information about the supply, distribution, and demographic characteristics of the state’s physicians and provides important context for understanding the challenges of caring for people during a public health emergency like COVID-19, as well as the complexity of caring for an aging and increasingly racially/ethnically diverse population. 1

Key findings include:

  • The supply of licensed physicians does not adequately reflect their availability to provide care. Less than half of California’s physicians provided patient care 40 or more hours per week.
  • Physician supply varied by region. Out of nine regions in the state, only four regions (Greater Bay Area, Orange County, Sacramento Area, San Diego Area) had the recommended supply of primary care physicians (PCPs). The Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley had the lowest supply of PCPs and specialists.
  • Over one-third of California’s physicians were over 60. Physicians over 50 work fewer hours per week on patient care than their younger counterparts.
  • The Latinx population is underrepresented among physicians. Latinx represented 39% of California’s population, but only 6% of the state’s physicians and 8% of the state’s medical school graduates.
  • Physicians were less likely to accept uninsured patients than patients with any type of insurance, including Medi-Cal.
  • California ranked first in the nation in the percentages of both medical students and residents who remain in the state to practice.
  • Twenty-eight percent of physicians (39% of PCPs and 23% of specialists) attended an international medical school.

The complete report and a quick reference guide, as well as all the charts in the report, are available for download below. These materials are part of CHCF’s California Health Care Almanac, an online clearinghouse for key data and analyses describing the state’s health care landscape. See our entire collection of current and past editions of California’s Health Care Workforce.


  1. Data presented were collected prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some findings, most notably the amount of time spent providing care via telemedicine, may have changed since the pandemic began.

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