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Specialization and Regulation: The Rise of Professionals and the Emergence of Occupational Licensing Regulation

  • LAW, MARC T.
  • KIM, SUKKOO

This paper explores the origins and effects of occupational licensing regulation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. Was licensing regulation introduced to limit competition in the market for professional services at the expense of efficiency? Or was licensing adopted to reduce informational asymmetries about professional quality? To investigate these hypotheses, we analyze the determinants of licensing legislation and the effect of licensing on entry into eleven occupations. We also examine the impact of medical licensing laws on entry into the medical profession, physician earnings, mortality rates, and the incidence of medical malpractice. We believe that, at least for the Progressive Era, the evidence is more consistent with the asymmetric information hypothesis than the industry capture hypothesis.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 65 (2005)
Issue (Month): 03 (September)
Pages: 723-756

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:65:y:2005:i:03:p:723-756_00
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  1. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Leffler, Keith B, 1978. "Physician Licensure: Competition and Monopoly in American Medicine," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 165-86, April.
  3. Haas-Wilson, Deborah, 1986. "The Effect of Commercial Practice Restrictions: The Case of Optometry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 165-86, April.
  4. Maurizi, Alex, 1974. "Occupational Licensing and the Public Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 399-413, Part I, M.
  5. Dora Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1997. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 47-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Leland, Hayne E, 1979. "Quacks, Lemons, and Licensing: A Theory of Minimum Quality Standards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1328-46, December.
  7. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  8. David Cutler & Ellen Meara, 2001. "Changes in the Age Distribution of Mortality Over the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 8556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Victor R. Fuchs, 1969. "Production and Productivity in the Service Industries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fuch69-1, January.
  10. Law, Marc T., 2003. "The Origins of State Pure Food Regulation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(04), pages 1103-1130, December.
  11. Samuel H. Preston, 1996. "American Longevity: Past, Present, and Future," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 7, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  12. Burstein, Philip L. & Cromwell, Jerry, 1985. "Relative incomes and rates of return for U.S. physicians," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 63-78, March.
  13. Kessel, Reuben A, 1972. "Higher Education and the Nation's Health: A Review of the Carnegie Commission Report on Medical Education," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 115-27, April.
  14. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
  15. Benham, Lee & Benham, Alexandra, 1975. "Regulating Through the Professions: A Perspective on Information Control," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 421-47, October.
  16. Milton Friedman & Simon Kuznets, 1954. "Income from Independent Professional Practice," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie54-1, January.
  17. Svorny, Shirley V, 1987. "Physician Licensure: A New Approach to Examining the Role of Professional Interests," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(3), pages 497-509, July.
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