This article uses data from the Current Population Survey to analyze the role of professional certifications and occupational licenses in the U.S. labor market. It discusses the prevalence of these credentials among the employed by age, gender, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, and occupation. This analysis also explores the relationships between certifications, licenses, and earnings. Finally, the article presents new data on certification and licensing by detailed occupation and whether the credential is required for one’s job.
From the abstract:
Several features of the existing occupational licensing system impede access to health care without providing appreciable protections for patients. Licensing restrictions prevent health care providers from offering services to the full extent of their competency, obstruct the adoption of telehealth, and deter foreign-trained providers from practicing in the United States. Scholars and policymakers have proposed a number of reforms to this system over the years, but these proposals have had a limited impact for political and institutional reasons.
Still, there are grounds for optimism. In recent years, the federal government has taken a range of initial steps to reform licensing requirements for health care providers, and these steps have the potential to improve access to health care. Together, they illustrate a federalist approach to licensing reform, in which the federal government encourages the states to reform their licensing regimes, while largely preserving states’ control over the system. These steps include: (1) easing federal licensing restrictions for health care providers in certain areas where the federal government possesses regulatory authority; (2) creating incentives for states and professional bodies to experiment with reforms; (3) intensifying the Federal Trade Commission’s focus on licensing boards’ anti-competitive conduct; and (4) generating additional pressure for state-level reforms through expanding health insurance and promoting delivery system reforms under the Affordable Care Act.
This article argues that a federalist approach represents the most promising path toward reforming occupational licensing in health care. Federal intervention in licensing is necessary, due to states’ lack of incentives to experiment with licensing reforms, the externalities of their licensing regimes, and their inability to resolve their own collective action problems. Nevertheless, large-scale federal preemption of state licensing laws is unlikely, due to a combination of interest group politics, Congress’s tendency toward incrementalism, and its reliance on the states to administer federal policies. A federalist approach also has functional advantages over outright federal preemption: it allows for more experimentation in constructing new licensing regimes, and it enables the federal government to take advantage of states’ institutional expertise in regulating occupations. Finally, this approach presents a model for how the federal government can play a constructive role in occupational licensing in other fields besides health care, and in other areas of state regulatory policy.
From interactive courses spanning several weeks to quick introductory tasters, there is a huge amount of free learning materials available online. Covering a range of topics and jurisdictions, there’s something for everyone (so long as you’re into law)!
MOOCs, Tasters and Courseware
Lecture Collections and Podcasts
Open Access Books and Journals
Labor Law and Employment Discrimination
Missouri State University on YouTube
‘Legal, regulatory, and ethical issues related to employer-employee relationship, including employment-at-will doctrine, discrimination and union contracts.’
‘This course studies the interaction between law, courts, and social movements in shaping domestic and global public policy. Examines how groups mobilize to use law to affect change and why they succeed and fail. The class uses case studies to explore the interplay between law, social movements, and public policy in current areas such as gender, race, labor, trade, environment, and human rights. Finally, it introduces the theories of public policy, social movements, law and society, and transnational studies.’
Technology, Law, and the Working Environment
MIT Open Courseware
‘This course addresses the relationship between technology-related problems and the law applicable to work environment. The National Labor Relations Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, state worker’s compensation, and suits by workers in the courts are discussed in the course. Problems related to occupational health and safety, collective bargaining as a mechanism for altering technology in the workplace, job alienation, productivity, and the organization of work are also addressed. Prior courses or experience in environmental, public health, or law-related areas will be useful.’
Cornell University on iTunesU
‘Andrew D. White, Cornell’s first president, established a law school to produce “not swarms of hastily prepared pettifoggers, but a fair number of well-trained, large-minded, morally-based lawyers in the best sense.” Cornell Law graduates are found in major law firms and corporate law departments; and as public defenders or winning discrimination cases. Undergraduates can take courses in labor, business, and international law, and study the impact of a legal system on societies and individuals.’
Gender and the Law in U.S. History
MIT Open Courseware
‘This subject explores the legal history of the United States as a gendered system. It examines how women have shaped the meanings of American citizenship through pursuit of political rights such as suffrage, jury duty, and military service, how those political struggles have varied for across race, religion, and class, as well as how the legal system has shaped gender relations for both women and men through regulation of such issues as marriage, divorce, work, reproduction, and the family. The course readings will draw from primary and secondary materials in American history, as well as some court cases. However, the focus of the class is on the broader relationship between law and society, and no technical legal knowledge is required or assumed.’
‘The free online course Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution describes the benefits of using ADR as a conflict resolution method, how to prepare for an ADR process, and how confidentiality is maintained during the ADR process. The course also outlines both the common and uncommon methods of ADR and the situations in which each method can be used.’
Introduction to Copyright Law in America
MIT on Alison
‘With the wide-spread use of the Internet copyright has become a very important issue for publishers of books, music, software, films, television programmes and many other industries. This free online course is an introduction to copyright law as practised in the United States, however, the principles and concepts will be of interest to legal professionals in other jurisdictions. The course reviews the structure of copyright under federal law, the basics of legal research and legal citations. It examines copyright and its applications in the music and broadcasting industries, and looks at legal cases involving examples such as Napster, Grokster and peer-to-peer file sharing services. It also reviews software licensing, and the General Public License and free software. This course will be of great interest to legal and business professionals who would like to learn more about copyright law and how it is practised in the United States, and to students who are pursuing a career in the legal professions and would like to learn more about this very important legal topic.’
Occupational licensure is a regulatory method that requires people to secure a license from government in order to practice a certain trade or profession. When implemented effectively, occupational licensure helps protect public health and safety and improves the quality of goods and services.
From the summary:
Occupational licensing—the legal requirement that a credential be obtained in order to practice a profession—is a common labor market regulation that ostensibly exists to protect public health and safety. However, by limiting access to many occupations, licensing imposes substantial costs: consumers pay higher prices, economic opportunity is reduced for unlicensed workers, and even those who successfully obtain licenses must pay upfront costs and face limited geographic mobility. In addition, licensing often prescribes and constrains the ways in which work is structured, limiting innovation and economic growth…..
Occupational licensing is a regulatory method that requires individuals to secure a license from government in order to practice a certain trade or profession. Currently, 1-in-4 occupations in the U.S. currently require a license and most licensure requirements vary drastically from state to state.
NCSL, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Governor’s Association and the Council of State Governments, is working to research occupational licensing to help states identify best practices and solutions to their licensing issues, including to help decrease barriers to labor market entry and to increase the portability of licenses across state lines. This database contains legislation from all 50 states covering 34 distinct occupations that have been identified based on the following criteria:
– Each must be licensed in at least 30 states.
– Each much require less than a bachelor’s degree in most states.
– The projected employment growth rate for the occupation must be at or higher than the national average. – Each occupation must currently have employment levels of 10,000 or more.
The database also contains legislation on occupational licensure laws more generally and includes legislation impacting the following four population groups that have been identified as being disproportiantely impacted by licensure-related barriers to labor market entry:
– Skilled immigrants.
– Individuals with criminal records.
– Active duty military, veterans and their spouses.
– Unemployed and dislocated workers.
Source: Maury Gittleman, Mark A. Klee, Morris Kleiner, Industrial Relations, Volume 57, Issue 1, January 2018
From the abstract:
Recent assessments of occupational licensing have shown varying effects of the institution on labor-market outcomes. This study revisits the relationship between occupational licensing and labor-market outcomes by analyzing a new topical module to the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Relative to previously available data, the topical module offers more detailed information on occupational licensing attainment, with larger sample sizes and access to richer sets of person-level characteristics. We find that those with a license earn higher pay, are more likely to be employed, and have a higher probability of employer-sponsored health insurance offers.
Source: Christina DePasquale, Kevin Stange, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w22344, June 2016
From the abstract:
There is concern that licensure requirements impede mobility of licensed professionals to areas of high demand. Nursing has not been immune to this criticism, especially in the context of perceived nurse shortages and large expected future demand. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was introduced to solve this problem by permitting registered nurses to practice across state lines without obtaining additional licensure. We exploit the staggered adoption of the NLC to examine whether a reduction in licensure-induced barriers alters the nurse labor market. Using data on over 1.8 million nurses and other health care workers we find no evidence that the labor supply or mobility of nurses increases following the adoption of the NLC, even among the residents of counties bordering other NLC states who are potentially most affected by the NLC. This suggests that nationalizing occupational licensing will not substantially reduce labor market frictions.
From the summary:
Nearly one in three U.S. adults has a record in the criminal justice system. It’s hardly uncommon, but the resulting stigma and its lifelong consequences prove devastating for many. ….
….Passing a criminal background check is a common requirement to obtain a state license. In fact, the American Bar Association’s inventory of penalties against those with a record has documented 27,254 state occupational licensing restrictions. Thousands of these restrictions vary widely among states and professions. And because the criminal justice system disproportionately impacts people of color, these extrajudicial penalties—known as “collateral consequences”— perpetuate racial disparities in employment.
Although no national data exists as to the number of people denied licenses because of these collateral consequences, analogous data is available in the hiring context. For example, after submitting a job application, people with records on average are only half as likely to get a callback as those without a record. And for black men with records, the impact is more severe—only one in three receive a callback. Thus, having a conviction record, particularly for people of color, is a major barrier to participation in the labor market…..
From the summary:
A prison sentence often doesn’t end on the day of release. For many people with conviction records, their sentence will continue for years to come with barriers to employment and housing.
Research in the report, “Jobs after Jail: Ending the prison to poverty pipeline,” by the Alliance for a Just Society, show that states have an average of 123 mandatory bans and restrictions preventing people with felony convictions from employment in certain occupations or from obtaining certain occupational or business licenses….
…..Beyond recidivism, though, finding work helps keep those with conviction records out of poverty. The Center for American Progress notes that a 2013 study found that that nation’s poverty rate would have been down 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 “if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for years after they have paid their debt to society.”
Recommendations in “Jobs after Jail” show that there are a variety of tools that can be used to ensure that a conviction record does not lead to a lifetime of poverty, including “Banning the Box” on employment applications, re-evaluating laws restricting employment in specific occupations, and making those with conviction records eligible for safety net services.
Additionally, a Certificate of Rehabilitation can help potential employers, licensing agencies, or even landlords assess the suitability, safety, and welfare of an applicant or renter. These certificates “can offer a presumption of rehabilitation … or at minimum an individual’s commitment to rehabilitation,” helping eliminate personal discrimination and providing additional evidence of rehabilitation and desire to reintegrate into the community.
So far, six states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York use some form of these certificates, and Washington State is one of the latest states to propose adoption of a similar system….