Most Common Licensing Changes: Higher Fees, Lower Education and Experience
Looking beyond occupation and state averages, the most common changes to license requirements between 2017 and 2022 were to fees and days lost to education and experience, as shown in Figure 5. Fees were by far the most likely burden category to change, as 1,571 licenses saw a change in fees and more than 1,000 of those changes were increases. By contrast, days lost were more likely to decrease: 188 decreases vs. 144 increases. Moreover, in terms of magnitude, reductions to days lost were larger than increases to fees, as Figure 6 illustrates. Across all the licenses present in both the second and third editions of License to Work, average fees rose 3.5% from 2017 to 2022, but average days lost fell by nearly 6%, by far the largest change across our five burden categories.
To be sure, higher fees can present real hurdles, especially for aspiring workers of modest means, and we found increases were particularly pronounced in certain occupations and states. Seventy-two percent of health care licenses saw increased fees, while average fees rose by 10% or more—even after accounting for inflation—in Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Still, education and experience mandates likely represent more challenging obstacles, so the frequency and magnitude of reductions to this burden category is notable.
Figure 5: Fees More Often Increased
Most licensing burden changes from 2017 to 2022 were fee increases, but education and experience mandates fell more often than they rose
Figure 6: Average Days Lost Declined the Most
Since 2017, average education and experience mandates fell by 6%, the largest change to any burden category
Such reductions were most common among personal care service and health occupations (Figure 7). Roughly 19% of personal care licenses saw a decrease to required education and experience, including licenses for barbers and cosmetologists (15 states each) and shampooers (14 states). (Barbering and beauty reforms are discussed in greater detail in Reform Spotlight: Barbering and Beauty Licensing.) Burdens were reduced for about 15% of health care licenses, most especially direct entry midwives, as noted above.
In terms of magnitude, construction and home services saw the largest declines in average days lost, as shown in Figure 8. While only 6% of such licenses saw a decrease, many decreases were large, most notably two years for 34 licenses in Utah and four years for 15 licenses in Arkansas. (These reforms and others in the contracting trades are detailed in Reform Spotlight: Contractor Trades Licensing.)
Figure 7: Barriers to Personal Care Services More Often Fell
Between 2017 and 2022, reductions in education and experience mandates were most common among personal care service licenses
Figure 8: Construction Trades’ Average Days Lost Declined the Most
Construction and home services licenses saw the largest reductions in average education and experience burdens since 2017
Exam and minimum grade requirements changed less frequently, but like days lost, they decreased more often than they increased. Nearly all minimum grade decreases involved simply eliminating the requirement, while a handful reduced the grade required from, for example, 12th to 10th (Figure 9). Personal care services accounted for 28 reductions, or nearly all of them, including seven states that reduced or removed grade mandates for manicurists, six states for cosmetologists and five states for barbers.
Finally, minimum age requirements changed infrequently since 2017, and like fees, they more often increased. Most often, these were new requirements of age 18 that did not exist in 2017, but about 25% were increases from, for example, age 16 to 18, or from 18 to 21 (Figure 10).
Figure 9: Fewer Minimum Grade Mandates
Since 2017, minimum grade mandates were lowered or removed more often than they were raised or added
Figure 10: More Minimum Age Mandates
Since 2017, minimum age mandates were raised or added more often than they were lowered or removed
Figure 11 helps put these changes to the different license burdens we track into context. Each dot represents one of the 2,733 licenses in both the second and third editions of License to Work. For 37% of them, nothing changed between 2017 and 2022. For 38%, requirements became more burdensome, but, as just discussed, most burden increases were to fees. Nineteen percent of licenses became less burdensome, while the remaining 6% saw at least one requirement increase and at least one other decrease. In short, most licenses stayed the same or became somewhat more burdensome, while a sizable share saw modest—but promising—improvement.
Figure 11: Burden Changes
Since 2017, 19% of licenses became less burdensome, but most saw increased or unchanged burdens