License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing



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By Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D.
Lisa Knepper
Angela C. Erickson
John K. Ross 

May 2012

License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing is the first national study to measure how burdensome occupational licensing laws are for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The report documents the license requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations—such as barber, massage therapist and preschool teacher—across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  It finds that occupational licensing is not only widespread, but also overly burdensome and frequently irrational.

On average, these 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 a year to earn.  At least one exam is required for 79 of the occupations.

Barriers like these make it harder for people to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs, particularly minorities, those of lesser means and those with less education.

License to Work recommends reducing or removing needless licensing barriers.  The report’s rankings of states and occupations by severity of licensure burdens make it easy to compare laws and identify those most in need of reform.


Executive Summary




The Occupations


Ranking the Occupations


Ranking the States


The Irrationalities of Occupational Licensure


Protection from Competition, Not for Consumers


Alternatives to Licensure


Conclusion and Recomendations


State Profiles


Occupation Profiles




Appendix: Methods



Model Legislation, Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Table 1: Number of States that License 102 Lower-Income Occupations

Opinion: How to Deregulate Cities and States Wall Street Journal (August 25, 2014)

Table 2Estimated Demographics of Those Working in Lower-Income Occupations

Article: Red tape blues The Economist (July 5, 2014)

Table 3: Burdens of Licensure: Occupations Ranked by Average Burden

National ReleaseTwo Major Reports Released Today on Gov’t & Work (May 8, 2012)

Table 4Breadth and Burden of Licensure: Occupations Ranked by Number and Average Burden of Licensed States Combined

Model Economic Liberty Law

Table 5Average Occupational Requirements by Tier

Download licensing data

Table 6: Number and Percentage of Low-Income Occupations Licensed by State
IJ Economic Liberty Cases
Table 7: States Ranked by Average Burden of Licensing Requirements
Economic Liberty Publications 
Table 8: States Ranked by Number and Average Burden of Licensing Requirements Combined Editorials: Des Moines Register’s Pulitzer Finalist series on licensing
Table 9: Average State Requirements by Tier

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