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Barber Licensure and the Supply of Barber Shops: Evidence from U.S. States

Given its pervasiveness, occupational licensing has long been a subject of debate as to whether it serves to protect the public interest or the interests of special interest groups by acting as a barrier to entry. Proponents of occupational licensing argue occupational licensing enables better quality services to consumers that would otherwise not have been provided. Opponents, however, argue that occupational licensing gives rise to regulatory capture, and results in barriers to entry that disproportionately affect the poor and disadvantaged.

The number of required licensing exams is robustly associated in a negative way with the number of barber shops per capita in a state. It would be fruitful to further investigate the vast differences across states in the amount of regulation of certain industries, such as barbering, from a political economy perspective, in order to better understand the various special interests at play.

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