License to Work (2nd Edition)

Today, more Americans than ever must get a government permission slip before they can earn an honest living, thanks to the spread of occupational licensing laws. Licensing laws now guard entry into hundreds of occupations, including jobs that offer upward mobility to those of modest means, such as cosmetologist, auctioneer, athletic trainer and landscape contractor. Yet research provides scant evidence that licensing does what it is supposed to do—raise the quality of services and protect consumers. Instead, licensing laws often protect those who already have licenses from competition, keeping newcomers out and prices high.

This second edition of License to Work is the most comprehensive look to date at licensing burdens for lower-income occupations. It measures burdens for 102 lower-income occupations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia and finds that licensing laws can pose substantial difficulties for job seekers and would-be entrepreneurs. On average, these laws require nearly a year of education and experience, one exam, and over $260 in fees.

License to Work also finds that licensing burdens are frequently irrational. For example, in most states, it takes 12 times longer to get a license to cut hair as a cosmetologist than to get a license to administer life-saving care as an emergency medical technician. Moreover, most occupations are unlicensed somewhere, suggesting they can be safely practiced without a state license.

Read more of this Institute for Justice report by clicking here.

Photo: Institute for Justice