Locking People Out with an Explosion of Regulation

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The topic of occupational licensing has been trending, lately, and Nila Bala adds this on The Hill:

Nearly one out of three Americans has a record in the criminal justice system and, as a result, faces a difficult road to becoming employed. Adding to their woes is the fact that many jobs — including interior designer, barber, pest control applicator and fire alarm installer — require some kind of occupational license.

Unfortunately, many states still deny licenses for individuals with criminal convictions, even when those convictions are decades old or relatively minor. The good news? Several states and cities across the country are poised to become leaders in reforming the law.

The number of jobs requiring occupational licenses has ballooned in the last 50 years. Occupational licensing has expanded from covering five percent of the workforce in the 1950s to 30 percent today. In recent years, occupational licenses have come under fire for creating unnecessary barriers to work without any measurable gains in safety or quality of services provided to the public.

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Of course, one could argue that the mix of jobs has changed in the last half-century, but somehow people got along without government oversight of a big chunk of the economy in the past.  It isn’t clear that the benefits of all this regulation outweigh the costs, or even have substantial benefits looking only at that side of the ledger.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Nearly one out of three Americans has a record in the criminal justice system and, as a result, faces a difficult road to becoming employed. Adding to their woes is the fact that many jobs — including interior designer, barber, pest control applicator and fire alarm installer — require some kind of occupational license.

    In Massachusetts, a special license is required for the installation of replacement windows (a racket if ever there was one). When renewing my pistol license, I found that I was in CORI for a spot of trouble when I was 12. (Actually didn’t do anything, but took the heat for a friends older brother).

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