Occupational licensure, one of the most significant labor market regulations in the United States, may restrict the interstate movement of workers. We analyze the interstate migration of 22 licensed occupations. Using an empirical strategy that controls for unobservable characteristics that drive long-distance moves, we find that the between-state migration rate for individuals in occupations with state-specific licensing exam requirements is 36 percent lower relative to members of other occupations. Members of licensed occupations with national licensing exams show no evidence of limited interstate migration. The size of this effect varies across occupations and appears to be tied to the state specificity of licensing requirements. We also provide evidence that the adoption of reciprocity agreements, which lower re-licensure costs, increases the interstate migration rate of lawyers. Based on our results, we estimate that the rise in occupational licensing can explain part of the documented decline in interstate migration and job transitions in the United States.
The length of time from the implementation of an occupational licensing statute (i.e., licensing duration) may matter in influencing labor market outcomes. Adding to or raising the entry barriers are likely easier once an occupation is established and has gained influence in a political jurisdiction. States often enact grandfather clauses and ratchet up requirements that protect existing workers and increase entry costs to new entrants. We analyze the labor market influence of the duration of occupational licensing statutes for 13 major universally licensed occupations over a 75-year period. These occupations comprise the vast majority of workers in these regulated occupations in the United States. We provide among the first estimates of potential economic rents to grandfathering. We find that duration years of occupational licensure are positively associated with wages for continuing and grandfathered workers. The estimates show a positive relationship of duration with hours worked, but we find moderately negative results for participation in the labor market. The universally licensed occupations, however, exhibit heterogeneity in outcomes. Consequently, unlike some other labor market public policies, such as minimum wages or direct unemployment insurance benefits, occupational licensing would likely influence labor market outcomes when measured over a longer period of time.
The growth of occupational licensing in the United States has resulted in higher labor costs, restricted services and other economic distortions, with relatively limited benefits in practice quality. This essay describes the state of such licensing, discusses pros and cons of the practice, and suggests several proposals to improve the current situation.
Recent assessments of occupational licensing have shown varying effects of the institution on labor market outcomes. This study revisits the relationship between occupational licensing and labor market outcomes by analyzing a new topical module to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Relative to previously available data, the topical module offers more detailed information on occupational licensing from government, with a larger sample size and access to a richer set of person-level characteristics. We exploit this larger and more detailed data set to examine the labor market outcomes of occupational licensing and how workers obtain these licenses from government. More specifically, we analyze whether there is evidence of a licensing wage premium, and how this premium varies with aspects of the regulatory regime such as the requirements to obtain a license or certification and the level of government oversight. After controlling for observable heterogeneity, including occupational status, we find that those with a license earn higher pay, are more likely to be employed, and have a higher probability of retirement and pension plan offers.