A Review of Occupational Licensing

This week the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the case of North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, addressing the questions of whether (or under what terms) state occupational licensing boards are immune from antitrust scrutiny. This is the case I referred to last week and linked to the preview of the arguments on SCOTUSblog.

Today I ran across a review of Morris Kleiner’s recent book, Stages of Occupational Regulation: Analysis of Case Studies, on Econ Journal Watch. Uwe Reinhardt (Princeton) provides a great overview of the general issue and Kleiner’s treatment of it. Below is the abstract of Reinhardt’s review:

The licensing of occupations—a very forceful intervention in markets—is pervasive and growing in modern economies. Yet the attention paid to it by economists and economics textbooks has been small. Highly welcome, therefore, has been the extensive and intensive work on this subject by Morris Kleiner. Kleiner’s latest book, titled Stages of Occupational Regulation: Analysis of Case Studies (2013), explores the progression of occupational regulation, from mere registration to certification to outright licensing—three distinct stages. Kleiner carefully selects for his analysis a series of occupations representing the stages of regulation, devoting a chapter to each occupation. He uses a variety of statistical approaches to tease out, from numerous databases, what the impact of mild to heavy regulation on labor markets appears to be.

Kleiner’s work leads him to call for a pervasive review of occupational regulation in the United States, with a view towards replacing occupational licensure, which introduces the most inefficiency and welfare loss, with mere certification of occupations. That recommendation gains plausibility in an age where cheap computation and data mining makes it possible to protect consumers from low-quality and possibly dangerous services by providing robust, user-friendly information on the quality of services delivered by competing occupations, such as doctors and nurse practitioners.

You can access the full article here. I may need to add Kleiner’s book to my list of fun-things-to-read-when-I-get-a-chance.

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