by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Occupational licensure is something that presents a barrier to entry for many professions. Those barriers fall hardest at the feet of minority citizens in America. Take the history of licensure for just one profession: barbers. JLF’s Jon Sanders quotes Timothy J. Sandefur on the subject in his recent research brief:
“At the end of the Civil War, occupational licensing became a key tool of preventing former slaves from earning a living in competition with whites. As David E. Bernstein has repeatedly shown, “white interest groups used occupational licensing laws to stifle black economic progress…
For instance, although some 20 percent of American barbers in the 1890s were black, that number had dropped to about 11 percent thirty years later. This was largely the result of licensing laws and other regulations that required barbers to go through expensive and time-consuming training, or to serve only customers of their own race.”
Sanders quotes David E. Bernstein on how the laws even further harmed would-be black barbers through apprenticeship requirements:
The first thing that should be noted about licensing laws is that even if their supporters had the best of intentions, and had no hostility to blacks, the laws would have hurt blacks nonetheless. Because unions did not admit blacks into their apprenticeship training programs and because southern public schools provided blacks with very little vocational training as compared to whites, skilled black workers generally had little formal training in their professions and therefore often could not satisfy certain licensing requirements despite their practical experience.
North Carolina’s licensure requirements have only become more onerous with time. Sanders’ writes:
The Institute for Justice ranks North Carolina as having the fifth-most burdensome licensing requirements for barbers in the nation.
As compiled by IJ, the many costs of obtaining a barber’s license in North Carolina include:
- 722 estimated calendar days lost in the pursuit of a license — more than 47 other states (including D.C.)
- 1,528 credit hours — more than 44 other states
- $270 licensing fees — more than 44 other states
- A full year of experience — more than 46 other states
- Three qualifying exams — more than 38 other states