Yes, Professional Licensing Is A Big Deal

by Conor Friedersdorf

I'd missed this post by Adam Ozimek:

…many states have regulations preventing dental hygienists from practicing without the supervision of a dentist. Dentists have an average of six years more schooling than a hygienists, who on average have 2.6 years of post high-school education. In addition, dentists make on average $100 an hour, and are 80% male, whereas hygiensts are 97% female and make around $37 an hour. Kleiner and Park find that these regulations transfer $1.5 billion dollars a year from hygiensts to dentists. This is a highly regressive transfer to a male dominated, higher educated, higher paid job from a female dominated, lower educated, lower paid job.

He goes on to demonstrate that professional licensing requirements indeed do unnecessary harm to consumers. The crux of his case:

...there are times when licensing is probably the best way to handle things. This is when you have a clear public safety interest, a minimal set of standards that are easy to agree upon, low price elasticity of demand, unlikely chance of a black market, and the economic forces interested in limiting licensing are as strong as those pushing for more of it. Airplane pilots come to mind here. But huge state by state variation in licensing without concomitant state by state variation in quality shows that we have a lot of licenses we can get rid of without any hugely negative consequences. In the meantime, the most disadvantaged workers and consumers are being hurt.

What I find most nonsensical are hurdles that make it harder to do professionally what lots of people do as amateurs without any adverse consequences – the average American housewife of the last generation did some barbering and interior decorating in her day, yet some states require a test to do those things for a living.