Inconsistent Laws for Jobs Licenses Makes It Difficult for Poor People to Get Jobs

2. Forty-seven states find it unnecessary to license interior designers, and yet the four that do find it necessary to receive 2,190 days of training to become one. This is a joke, and congressmen in those four states should be ashamed of themselves for this obvious and egregious handout.

3. Defenders of licensing regularly point to safety concerns, but for a large proportion of the occupations that are licensed somewhere, there are other states where they are not licensed, and in these states we do not witness of epidemic of wildly untrained barbers accidentally cutting off ears, for example.  In addition, some jobs that clearly do involve safety often require vastly less training than others where the argument is much more tenuous. For instance, cosmetologists on average require 372 days of training, while EMTs only require 33.

Government red tape can make it hard to get a job—especially if you’re a poor person who wants to be an interior designer in a state that requires you to go through 2,190 days of training to get a license. Oh, you’re not a licensed interior designer? Don’t you dare tell me what end tables match my curtains!

Photo: Flickr/longlostcousin

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

lobsterhug (#43)

Yeah, six years of training to pick out color schemes is insane. It’s not like interior decorators also have to construct the interior from scratch.

NoReally (#45)

Not saying you’re wrong, but must point out that the bulk of the licensing exam requirement for interior designers is for ADA regulations, and whether or not it’s overkill, it does result in fewer buildings coming out with bathroom doors too narrow for wheelchairs, and so on. Requiring that the people involved at the design stage be educated, instead of leaving it in the hand of inspectors, isn’t such a bad thing.

It sounds like utter crap, but it’s not about “no stripes with plaid.”

pissy elliott (#844)

@NoReally Oh man, you beat me.

pissy elliott (#844)

I have been following these sort of discussions on occupational licensing for a while, because Matt Yglesias made them his hobbyhorse for a long time. I am of many minds about it, but I will say this: stop using interior designers as an example of occupational licensing gone amok! Interior DESIGNERS do some kinds of light construction and contracting (knocking out walls, built-in fixtures, etc.)! Interior DECORATORS pick out swatches and help you find furniture. You probably want to train and license someone who will be knocking out your walls! Life isn’t a Seven On Your Side report, and sometimes boring regulations do useful things!

@pissy elliott Counterpoint: 2,190 days = 6 years. In that time you could become a fully-fledged professional engineer and be legally allowed to sign off on drawings for like, a dam overlooking a populated area, or a bridge used by millions of people each year.

I think the key point is the state-by-state evidence, or lack thereof. Surely it’s not a high hurdle to ask that licensing proponents show that there is actual evidence that unlicensed interior DESIGNERS are building dangerous structures that disabled people can’t use?

(God damn, each day as a Billfold reader is making me sound more and more libertarian, isn’t it?)

pissy elliott (#844)

@stuffisthings This is actually a fair point, and why I said “many minds.” As loath as I am to give the Institute of Justice (which is pretty much a libertarian front group) any shrift, a lot of occupational licensing is just a kind of cartelization, and a way of artifically creating barriers to entry.

And while I can’t speak uniquely to embattled interior designers, I can say that building structures to local building codes is self-evidently important! (Sorry if this is an argumentative fallacy, but I’m on the internet and don’t feel like Googling open Department of Building complaints that adversely affect the lives of people who aren’t trained architects, designers, or engineers) If you are going to allow a profession to do code-dependent work on structures, I don’t think it’s a terrible demand to force them to show competency through licensing.

pissy elliott (#844)

@pissy elliott If you would like to talk about barber licensing though, please feel free to take it up with anyone else who read Yglesias from 2009-2010, because I am done with that!

@pissy elliott No, I agree in principle, but it’s also a fair point that if lack of licensing in these inconstantly licensed professions were dangerous, we’d be seeing evidence of that. For instance, a friend of mine is involved in child welfare issues in a Midwestern state with lax licensing for child care providers, and which also does very poorly on scores of child welfare. In that case I think you could make a strong claim for more licensing/regulation.

pissy elliott (#844)

We are moving out of my statistical expertise here. I am making a fairly narrow point about buildings, and fields where there are a lot of information asymmetries between consumer and supplier. I’m not going to speak to occupations like cosmetologists, auctioneers, fortune-tellers, and other dubiously licensed practices. But I’m always skeptical when these articles come up, because they often make these very big jumps from “I wonder why state boards of cosmetology force applicants to go through years of training and fees” to “Why can’t I use a fly-by-night contractor to fix my tenant’s roof?”

@pissy elliott This is why people who write about public policy should be licensed, so they know exactly how slippery they can make their slopes.

lobsterhug (#43)

Ah, so enlightening! Yes, obviously, if there is any engineering/construction, it makes sense to be licensed.

How many states are there, exactly?

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