Occupational Licensing in Iowa
What is Occupational Licensing?
Occupational licensing is a permit issued by the government that allows someone to work in a particular field. In Iowa, nearly one in five workers must now get an occupational license before they can legally do their job. But many of these licenses are too strict, and they don’t even improve service quality or protect the public from actual harm.
Licenses Create Barriers to Working in Iowa
Occupational licenses often impose high barriers to entry. That makes it much harder for people to find work or to start a new business. According to the Institute for Justice’s report, License to Work, the average license for low- and moderate-income jobs in Iowa takes 306 days of education and experience. And those required classes can be very expensive.
For instance, cosmetology is one of the state’s most popular licenses. In Iowa, it takes at least 1,500 hours of classes to get a license in cosmetology. On average, a cosmetology program in the state costs $19,508, while the average student takes out $6,359 in federal student loans. But despite such a hefty investment, many cosmetologists barely earn enough to get by: Half of cosmetologists make less than $25,990 a year.
All told, the state’s licensing requirements come with heavy costs. A separate study by IJ, At What Cost?, estimated that occupational licensing costs the state’s economy $4.64 billion and leads to 48,000 fewer jobs each year.
Licensing Lawsuits by the Institute for Justice in Iowa
On behalf of natural hair braiders Aicheria Bell and Achan Agit, IJ successfully challenged a state law that outlawed braiding hair without a cosmetology license, even though Iowa’s cosmetology classes aren’t required to teach African-style natural hair braiding. Prompted by IJ’s lawsuit, Iowa enacted a bill that completely exempts braiders from licensure.
Recent Licensing Reforms in Iowa
Working with the Institute for Justice, Iowa lawmakers have overhauled their state’s occupational licensing laws with multiple reforms in recent years. In 2020, Iowa approved a bill that universally recognizes out-of-state licenses. Under the law, licensed workers who move to the state will be free to work when they arrive and will no longer have to waste their time and money trying to obtain another permission slip from the government. The 2020 reform also eliminated many licensing barriers that prevented people with criminal records from finding work.
In addition, Iowa has ended licensing for eyebrow threaders and repealed statutes that let the state revoke licenses over unpaid student loans.
How You Can Help
If you are an Iowa resident and you want to help fight against these unfair and unnecessary licensing laws, there are a few ways you can get involved. You can donate to the Institute for Justice, sign up for our email updates, and share our message with your network. Together, we can make sure that all Iowa workers have the economic liberty they deserve.
Iowa OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING CASES
Economic Liberty | Hair Braiding | Occupational Licensing
Breaking Down Government Barriers to African-Style Hair Braiding in Iowa
Iowa Occupational Licensing In The News
Are Occupational Licenses Preventing You From Working in Iowa ?
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The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm dedicated to the protection of constitutional rights, including the right of individuals to produce, procure, and consume homemade foods free from unnecessary and anti-competitive regulations.
Occupational Licensing Research
License to Work 3
This third edition of IJ’s landmark License to Work report finds that for lower-income Americans, licensing continues to be widespread, burdensome and—frequently—irrational. It also provides a blueprint for meaningful licensing reform.
Cosmetology | Economic Liberty
Beauty School Debt and Drop-Outs
Cosmetology is one of the most widely and onerously regulated occupations for lower-income workers, yet little research has explored the experiences of aspiring beauty workers. This first-of-its-kind study takes advantage of federal educational…
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
Barred From Working
Earning an honest living is one of the best ways to prevent re-offending. But strict occupational licensing requirements make it harder for ex-offenders to find work, thwarting their chances of successful reentry.
Economic Liberty | Occupational Licensing
At What Cost
Not only do state occupational licensing laws force people to spend a lot of time and money earning a license instead of earning a living, they also impose real economic costs. This study takes advantage…
Learn more about our Economic Liberty work.
Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements that stand in the way of honest competition.Learn More
Reforming Occupational Licensing Nationwide
All Americans deserve the opportunity to earn an honest living. Yet occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise. Since our founding, IJ has fought to roll back oppressive occupational-licensing rules in more than two dozen distinct occupations, ranging all the way from tax preparers to florists to traditional African hair braiders. Learn more about IJ’s occupational-licensing work in all 50 states:
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