Special Report

States With the Fewest (and Most) Doctors Per Person

The United States has been quietly battling a doctor shortage for a few years. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how big the problem is. Medical institutions have been warning that there could be a shortage of up to 124,000 primary care physicians and specialty care doctors nationwide within a decade, according to research by the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

There is already a shortage in some areas in the U.S., with rural areas disproportionately affected. If people living in rural communities, as well as minorities and those with no health insurance, had the same access to medical care that others have, the country would need an additional 180,400 doctors to meet demand. (These are the states where the most people don’t have health insurance.)

To determine the states with the most and fewest doctors, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on medical workforce by state from the 2021 State Physician Workforce Data Report of the Association of American Medical Colleges. States were ranked based on the number of active physicians per capita.

Physician counts were adjusted for population using one-year data from the 2021 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. Supplemental data on the percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health and the number of premature deaths before the age of 75 per 100,000 residents came from the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Data on uninsured rate and poverty rate came from the 2021 ACS and are one-year estimates.

Click here to see the states with the most and fewest doctors per person

Most of the states with the fewest doctors per capita are in the South. The variation between states with the most and fewest doctors per capita is stark. It ranges from 184 doctors for every 100,000 people in the state with the fewest doctors per capita to 460 per 100,000 in the state with the most doctors.

States with a lower doctor-to-resident ratio share some common attributes, including generally higher rates of people without health insurance and adults reporting poor or fair health. (These are the states with the shortest life expectancies.)

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