While professional licensing can have an important role to play in protecting consumers, the proliferation of state occupational licensing regulations over the past fifty years raises important competition policy concerns. Unnecessary licensing restrictions can hamper free market competition and workforce mobility. Innovation and entry from new business models can suffer.
More than a quarter of the American labor force requires a state license to work, a five-fold increase since the 1950s. Occupational licensing imposes restrictions on competition in every reach of the modern economy — with pernicious effects.
According to a report issued by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, such laws have been estimated to cost millions of jobs nationwide and raise consumer expenses by over one hundred billion dollars. The impact is felt most by those who can least afford it. For instance, unnecessary and expensive educational requirements prevent upward mobility, and poor consumers can find necessities from haircuts to plumbing out of reach. What’s more, the patchwork of state licensing regimes poses a significant barrier to practicing one’s occupation across state lines, which can be especially costly to military families. [Read More]