by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
New data released by the Archbridge Institute has the potential to bring together folks across the ideological spectrum who are concerned about income inequality. Some on the Left may not realize that thousands and thousands of people who want to use their skills to earn a living are being thwarted by a set of rules called occupational licensing. I know, I know. It sounds pretty wonky, but it’s not.
Here’s the issue in a nutshell. North Carolina, like many other states, forces people to obtain expensive and time-consuming training before they can enter a profession. We can agree that licensing is appropriate in fields with a very serious and/or potentially fatal impact when errors are made — doctors and nurses, for example. But when it comes to things like cosmetology, makeup artistry, teeth whitening, locksmithing, and landscaping, licensing simply puts up barriers for hard-working people who want to establish themselves. North Carolina licenses dozens of job categories.
Now back to Archbridge. Here’s what the study found about occupational licensing’s impact on economic mobility and income inequality, as detailed by a writer at reason.com.
Workers in low- and moderate-income professions in states with high levels of licensure—like Louisiana, where Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has called for a reduction in licensing requirements—demonstrate less upward mobility than workers in states that have lower licensing burdens, like Oklahoma. Louisiana licenses 59 out of 120 low-income professions included in the study, while Oklahoma licenses only 15 of those same professions. The growth of licensing corresponds with an increase in economic inequality by between 4 percent and 15 percent depending on the state, the study suggests.
So whether you’re concerned about income inequality, or whether you simply believe that occupational licensing is outdated and overly burdensome, it’s becoming clear that we must reform/reduce occupational licensing laws in order to make it easier for people to earn a living. At the John Locke Foundation, we’re driving the discussion about occupational licensing reform in North Carolina, and we’re happy to stand with others across the ideological spectrum who share our goal. We’ve put forth viable alternatives to occupational licensing, including inspections and certification. Let’s work together to get it done.