The New Closed Shop? The Economic and Structural Effects of Occupational Licensure
During the past few decades, licensure, a state-enforced mechanism for regulating occupational entry, quickly became the most prevalent form of occupational closure. Broad consensus among researchers holds that licensure creates wage premiums by establishing economic monopolies. This article demonstrates that, contrary to established wisdom, licensure does not limit competition, nor does it increase wages. Results are based on a new occupational dataset, covering 30 years, that exploits interstate variability in licensure across the 300 census-identified occupations. I argue that licensure, instead of increasing wages, creates a set of institutional mechanisms that enhance entry into the occupation, particularly for historically disadvantaged groups, while simultaneously stagnating quality.