Important New White House Report Documents Costs of Occupational Licensing

by on July 29, 2015 · 0 comments

Yesterday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an important new report entitled, “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers.” (PDF, 76 pgs.) The report highlighted the costs that outdated or unneeded licensing regulations can have on diverse portions of the citizenry. Specifically, the report concluded that:

the current licensing regime in the United States also creates substantial costs, and often the requirements for obtaining a license are not in sync with the skills needed for the job. There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities,  and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines. Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.

The report supported these conclusions with a wealth of evidence. In that regard, I was pleased to see that research from Mercatus Center-affiliated scholars was cited in the White House report (specifically on pg. 34). Mercatus Center scholars have repeatedly documented the costs of occupational licensing and offered suggestions for how to reform or eliminate unnecessary licensing practices. Most recently, my colleagues and I have explored the costs of licensing restrictions for new sharing economy platforms and innovators. The White House report cited, for example, the recently-released Mercatus paper on “How the Internet, the Sharing Economy, and Reputational Feedback Mechanisms Solve the ‘Lemons Problem,’” which I co-authored with Christopher Koopman, Anne Hobson, and Chris Kuiper. And it also cited a new essay by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok on “The End of Asymmetric Information.”

Moreover, along with Christopher Koopman and Matt Mitchell, I recently submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission for a sharing economy workshop. In those comments, as well as a recent paper on the same subject, we documented how occupational licensing rules were often “captured” by affected interests and are then used to discourage new forms of competition and innovation. This harms both consumers and workers by depriving them of new and better options. Many sharing economy operations are having great success in breaking down these barriers and proving that consumers and workers do better in an environment free of unnecessary and costly licensing restrictions. This suggests that consumer welfare would be improved even more by reforming other licensing regimes.

Mercatus has published dozens of other things related to this issue, many of which I have listed down below. Just recently, in fact, we published a new paper on “Breaking Down the Barriers: Three Ways State and Local Governments Can Improve the Lives of the Poor,” by economist Steven Horwitz. The report begins by documenting how “occupational licensure laws disproportionately burden the poor by requiring them to spend significant resources just to enter a market.” This is consistent with the findings from other Mercatus reports and other academic publications.

Anyway, check out the new White House report and, if you are serious about studying the issue of occupational licensing in more detail, you’ll want to take a closer look at some of these other Mercatus Center publications on the issue. The case for occupational licensing reform is strong and non-partisan, as the release of this White House report makes clear.


Mercatus Center publications and related material on occupational licensing & barriers to entry 

Previous post:

Next post: