The Labor Market Consequences of Ex-Offender Licensing Laws

Award Year


Grant Type

Early Career Reseach Award


Occupational licensing by the US government has grown from around 5 percent of the workforce immediately after World War II to around 25 percent in 2015 (Kleiner and Krueger, 2013, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). The typical public policy justification for occupational licensing is that it is implemented to protect the public from incompetent or unscrupulous purveyors of the service or product (Occupational Licensing, 2015). However, differences and disparities in occupational licensing laws across states can create barriers for those looking to enter the labor market and make it harder for workers to relocate across state lines. Certain populations—including military spouses and families, immigrants with work authorization, individuals with criminal records, and unemployed and dislocated workers—are affected especially hard by the requirements of occupational licensing. For example, Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas each have over 100 occupational licensure laws that mandate licensing authorities to deny an occupational license to individuals with a previous felony conviction (Rodriguez & Avery, 2016).

This project has two specific aims: (1) To create a publicly available database of statutory and administrative laws governing the ability of ex-offenders to be granted an occupation license for all occupations licensed in at least one state in the United States and how these have changed over time. (2) To estimate the causal effects of changes in laws regulating the ability of ex-offenders to earn an occupational license on labor market outcomes of workers, with particular attention to the labor market outcomes of minorities, women and ex-offenders.