See: For a video on this report, visit:
Visit the interactive version of License to Work at www.ij.org/LicenseToWork
…All of the 102 occupations in License to Work are licensed in at least one state. On average, these government-mandated licenses force aspiring workers to spend nine months in education or training, pass one exam and pay more than $200 in fees. One third of the licenses take more than one year to earn. At least one exam is required for 79 of the occupations.
“These licensing laws force people to spend a lot of time and effort earning a license instead of earning a living,” said Dr. Dick Carpenter, director of strategic research at the Institute for Justice and a report co-author. “They make it harder for people to find jobs and to build new businesses that create jobs.”
Data show that those practicing the 102 occupations studied are not only more likely to be low-income, but also minority and to have less education, likely making licensing hurdles even harder to overcome. In addition, about half the 102 occupations offer the possibility of entrepreneurship, suggesting these laws affect both job attainment and creation.
How States Rank
Louisiana licenses 71 of the 102 occupations, more than any other state, followed by Arizona (64), California (62) and Oregon (59). Wyoming, with a mere 24, licenses the fewest, followed by Vermont and Kentucky each at 27. Hawaii has the most burdensome average requirements for the occupations it licenses, while Pennsylvania’s average requirements are the lightest.
Arizona leads the nation with the worst combination of number of licenses and burdensome requirements to secure those licenses, followed by California, Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida and Louisiana. In those eight states it takes on average a year-and-a-half of training, an exam and more than $300 to get a license, a tremendous burden for would-be entrepreneurs and workers.
Are All These Licenses Necessary?
Noted licensure expert Morris Kleiner found that in the 1950s only one in 20 U.S. workers needed government permission to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, it is closer to one in three. Yet research to date provides little evidence that licensing protects public health and safety or improves products and services. Instead, it increases consumer costs and reduces opportunities for workers.
License to Work provides additional reasons to doubt that many licensing regimes are needed.
First, most of the 102 occupations are practiced somewhere without government permission and apparently without widespread harm: Only 15 are licensed in 40 states or more, and on average, the 102 occupations are licensed in just 22 states—fewer than half.
Second, licensure burdens often vary considerably across states, calling into question the need for severe burdens. For instance, although 10 states require four months or more of training for manicurists, Alaska demands only about three days and Iowa about nine days. Such disparities are prevalent throughout the occupations studied.
Finally, the difficulty of entering an occupation often has little to do with the health or safety risk it poses. Of the 102 occupations studied, the most difficult to enter is interior design, a harmless occupation licensed in only three states and D.C. By contrast, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) hold lives in their hands, yet 66 other occupations face greater average licensure burdens, including barbers and cosmetologists, manicurists and a host of contractor designations.
“The data cast serious doubt on the need for such high barriers, or any barriers, to many occupations,” said Lisa Knepper, IJ director of strategic research and report co-author. “Unnecessary and needlessly high licensing hurdles don’t protect public health and safety—they protect those who already have licenses from competition, keeping newcomers out and prices high.”