Occupational Licensing: Access or Exclusion?
By Amy Willis
Is our knee-jerk reaction to the dangers of occupational licensing overdone? Would we be better served by taking a more nuanced approach? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes sociologist Beth Redbird to explore these questions. Roberts is surprised by some of her findings…Were you?
1. Redbird notes a dramatic increase in occupational licensing since the 1970s and 80s. What accounts for this increase? What’s wrong with our estimates of licensing effects?2. Is the increase in occupational licensing a supply– or demand– side effect? (As always, bonus points for graphs!!!)
3. How does Redbird suggest that occupational licensing can be a benefit for people traditionally excluded from certain occupations, namely women and minorities? To what extent does this argument for access outweigh the wage effects?
4. What’s the difference between an inequality created by the marketplace and an inequality created as a result of legislation or regulation? Which is more pernicious, and why?
5. Redbird recounts a number of avenues for future research into occupational licensing. To what extent, for example, do you think licensing might “rigidify a state economy and make it less able to bounce back from…periods of recession?”
6. Extra credit: By whom were you more convinced regarding occupational licensing, Beth Redbird or Dick Carpenter? Explain.