News and Commentary
After a stint being homeless himself, Juan Carlos Montes de Oca learned cosmetology and began offering haircuts to homeless people who might otherwise go unkempt. All that stopped when the Arizona State Licensing Board discovered that he had not jumped through the relevant bureaucratic hoops, declared him a “real risk”, and tried to end his career. Fortunately, Governor Steve Ducey has intervened to seek justice in this case and asked the board to reevaluate their prosecutorial decision making. While occupational licensing delivers relatively diffuse macroeconomic harms to the majority of consumers and unlicensed workers, it can also derail the lives of the specific people who don’t check the right boxes.
Meanwhile, expanding the scope of practice can unlock rewarding careers, like in rural medicine. These are medical professionals trained with the range of skills to needed serve remote rural communities.
Montgomery County, VA is helping its teachers meet some burdensome requirements. Educators were required to complete three years of additional courses at local colleges. During that period, the county found that would-be teachers were burning out, so they launched these reforms to facilitate the logistics of completing these courses.
While law and medicine need consumer protections, the extent of our current licensing regime is driving exclusion rather safety. Utah is being sued by DACA recipients who are barred from becoming lawyers, and California’s unusually tough bar exam may contribute to shortages of lawyers in underserved communities. Florida failed to pass a bill allowing pharmacists to deliver flu shots, and nationally, physician assistants with untapped human capital are facing stagnating wages (in particular critical care nurses who could help abate the shortage for eldercare). While these highly specialized professions require regulation, our current delegation to professional boards is consistently striking the wrong balance. When practicing members of a profession are deciding how many competitors they should have to face, they tend to favor limitations that go beyond the public interest.
America suffers from large inequities in access to dental care. In many states, current laws drive down the number of dentists and prevent mid-level providers from doing important procedures they are qualified to perform. Researchers at the Center for Growth and Opportunity find that the states with more liberalized licensing regimes tend to have higher levels of dental health (challenging claimed risks to consumer safety) and individual states who reform experience improved access to oral care.