Five years after the second edition of License to Work, and 10 years after the first, the licensing landscape for lower-income occupations has seen modest—but encouraging—improvement. This third edition makes the case for continuing the reform trajectory. Nationwide, too many licensing burdens are excessively onerous or entirely unnecessary. This red tape forces aspiring workers to waste time and money or, worse yet, shuts them out of work. It forces consumers to pay higher prices or do without licensed services. And these costs to workers and consumers have effects on the wider economy as well. These are substantial harms, well documented by scholarly research. In comparison, the evidence for licensing’s benefits is slim.
These harms fall hardest on people like Ilumi Sanchez from our introduction. Ilumi’s business is safe for now, but many other day care providers in our nation’s capital are set to lose their livelihoods if they cannot comply with the District of Columbia’s senseless associate degree requirement.
Licensing’s harms demand urgent redress. Governments must take seriously the right of every American to earn an honest living; they must rein in occupational licensing run rampant. Fortunately, helpful resources for targeting reforms abound, not least of them this third edition of License to Work.