How to Reform Licensing
This study—and copious other research—suggests many licenses are unnecessary or unnecessarily burdensome. To rein in licensing, or at least mitigate some of its negative effects, there are several strategies policymakers can employ:
Repeal and Reduce Licensing Barriers
The most direct way to free workers and entrepreneurs from licensing red tape is to repeal and reduce needless barriers.
Prevent New Licenses
Outside of repealing licenses, the best way to mitigate licensing’s negative effects is to stop adopting new licenses unless they are shown, with high-quality evidence, to protect public health and safety.
Pare Back Broad “Scopes of Practice”
In addition to considering whether occupations should be licensed, and, if so, how burdensomely, policymakers should pay close attention to “scope of practice.”
Remove Barriers to Mobility
As License to Work amply illustrates, licensing requirements vary widely across states. And even when they do not, boards are often reluctant to recognize credentials issued by other states.
Ease Licensure—and Reentry—for People With Criminal Records
A final reform strategy targets a population particularly disadvantaged by licensing restrictions: people with criminal records.
Importantly, while this report focuses on a sample of lower-income occupations, these strategies can help states implement evidence-based reforms for occupational licenses beyond those we study here.
Resources for Licensing Reform
Comparing licensing across states
- License to Work, 3rd ed., online “Compare States” tool
- The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation’s online database
- National Conference of State Legislatures’ National Occupational Licensing Database
Evaluating existing and proposed licenses
- Searchable archive of government-issued sunrise reports evaluating 200+ occupations
- Council on Licensure, Enforcement & Regulation’s Questions a Legislator Should Ask, 3rd ed.