Letter: Occupational licensing limits economic mobility for lower-Income Louisianans
Originally Appeared in the Daily Advertiser
If you’re a working Louisianan, there’s a high likelihood you’ve had an encounter with occupational licensing.
In fact, roughly one in four professions in Louisiana require a government permission slip to work. Louisiana has some of the most onerous and burdensome licensing laws in the country. These regulations don’t just make it inconvenient for job seekers to find work, they actively limit economic mobility for low- to moderate- income Louisianans.
From alarm installers to florists, the state’s licensing laws place an inconceivable burden on those trying to find work under the guise of consumer protection. The burden placed on lower-income professions is especially over the top. The Institute for Justice found 77 of 102 lower-income professions required some form of occupational licensing in Louisiana, tying the state with Washington for the highest number of licenses on lower-income professions.
The number of jobs requiring licenses in Louisiana has grown at a shocking rate over past decades. Studies have shown that this trend spells disaster for economic mobility in our state. A study by the Archbridge Institute found a correlation between growth in licensing and decreased economic mobility. The Pelican Institute’s policy paper further shows the reality of how our burdensome licensing laws impact low to moderate income families across Louisiana.
When you look at what licensing entails for job seekers, it’s easy to see how this happens. First, many licenses place insurmountable barriers to work. Louisiana averages over $350 in fees and over 200 days of education to obtain a license. For many Louisianans, expending that amount of time and money is just not feasible. This allows those with more resources to crowd out jobs, making it even more difficult for lower income Louisianans to find work. Further, citizens returning from incarceration are often barred from finding work on the basis of “moral turpitude,” which bars countless people from finding work and undoubtedly exacerbating recidivism rates.
The pathway for Louisianans to receive a license to pursue a career can be incredibly expensive and laborious. As we increase the licensure burden on job seekers in Louisiana, the harder it is for lower-income families to find good work and move up the economic ladder. If we want to see more opportunity in Louisiana for the people who need it, we need to turn the tide by taking meaningful steps to remove unreasonable barriers to opportunity and restore Louisianans’ right to earn a living.
— Daniel Erspamer, Pelican Institute CEO