Raw Data: Occupational Licensing in the United States


Occupational licensing has been getting a lot of attention lately. Here is Josh Zumbrun writing in the Wall Street Journal:

In many states you can’t so much as get a haircut or have a manicure unless the person performing the service has an occupational license. Last summer, the White House released a report targeting this tangled maze of job-licensing requirements, and saying that trimming the thicket would improve the economy.

One reason [licensed] workers might enjoy a wage and job premium is because they’ve artificially restricted competition in their fields. It’s one thing when a thoracic surgeon must have an active license, but it’s another when an interior designer must have one….Another problem economists see with occupational licenses is that they tend to be issued and regulated at the state level. This makes it difficult for workers to relocate across state lines.

I haven’t studied this enough to have a considered opinion on the subject, but I was still curious about which occupations are the most highly licensed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released some statistics on occupational licensing, and the chart below shows every occupation in which more than 20 percent of workers are licensed in some way. I’m not surprised to see medicine, law, and education at the top of the list, but personal care, maintenance, and management? That needs a little more thought.

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