FTC Announces Second Economic Liberty Public Roundtable

Focus on evidence regarding the effects of occupational licensing

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Learn how Economic Liberty opens doorsThe Federal Trade Commission’s Economic Liberty Task Force announced today that it will hold its second roundtable in Washington, DC on Nov. 7, 2017, to examine empirical evidence on the effects of occupational licensure.

The first roundtable was held in July and focused on license portability and job mobility. The November 7 roundtable, The Effects of Occupational Licensure on Competition, Consumers, and the Workforce: Empirical Research and Results, will bring together experts who have studied the economic and legal aspects of occupational licensing regulations.

Licensing restrictions can be costly to workers who seek to enter an occupation or to relocate or offer services across state lines. These costs, in turn, can increase prices and reduce output, access, and choices for consumers of services and goods offered by licensed occupations. Certain classes of workers may be particularly affected. For example, restrictions on license portability across state lines may be especially burdensome for the families of military service members who move frequently, as military spouses often work in licensed occupations.

Licensure can confer consumer benefits as well as costs; and for some occupations, licensing restrictions may be an appropriate policy response to safety or other consumer protection concerns. There is a substantial empirical literature addressing the effects of occupational licensure. Recent years have seen significant additions to that body of literature, and research is ongoing.

To advance the work of the Economic Liberty Task Force, it will host a roundtable discussion among economic and policy experts on the costs and benefits of licensing – the effects on workers, consumers, competition, and the overall economy.

Topics of discussion at the event will include:

  • What is the state of empirical knowledge about the extent, stringency, and growth of state licensing requirements? What is the state of empirical evidence on the costs and benefits of occupational licensing? To what extent do the costs and benefits of licensing vary? And according to what factors?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of studies that examine the general effects of licensing versus studies of particular occupations or types of licensing restrictions?
  • What is the state of the theoretical economic literature on licensing? To what extent do empirical studies elucidate or support established theoretical models of the effects of licensing?
  • What is the state of data in the field? Are there new or emerging data sets worth highlighting or developing?
  • What are the alternatives to occupational licensing? Are there other forms of government regulation – such as certification, registration, or mandatory bonding – private initiatives, or market-based solutions that might serve some of the consumer protection goals of licensing?
  • What is the best available evidence for policymakers deciding whether to adopt a new licensing regime? What is the best available evidence for policymakers deciding whether to reform an existing regime?

The FTC invites comments from the public on the topics covered by this roundtable. For further information on the roundtable and the public comment process, including a list of suggested questions open for comment, please view the roundtable website.

The roundtable is free and open to the public. The Nov. 7 roundtable begins at 2 p.m. at Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20024. An agenda and information about reasonable accommodations will be available at a later date.

Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen established the Task Force earlier this year as her first major policy initiative for the agency. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. jobs require a license today, up from less than five percent in the 1950s. Occupational licensing can sometimes be necessary to protect public health and safety, which benefits consumers and serves important state policy interests. But even in those situations, state-specific licensing requirements can impose barriers to entry on qualified workers who have moved from another state, or want to work across state lines.  

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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