Current Research Activities
My research generally falls under the umbrella of law and economics, which studies and evaluates the economic effects of laws, regulations, and other governance. Within this field, I particularly examine the effects of governance on labor markets and health care markets, both legal and illegal. I also introduce my students to current research on these topics in the classroom, engaging students with pedagogical research. I currently examine the unintended effects of labor market regulations, such occupational licensing, scope of practice, and wage regulation, in order to identify secondary consequences of market interventions. These effects can be quite significant, and sometimes unexpected, as with the surprising negative quality effects of occupational licensing and the negative workforce mobility impact of labor regulation on physicians and ex-felons alike. I also conduct research on the participation of women in economics, both contemporary and historical. Tackling these sometimes challenging issues is both motivating and exciting for myself and for students.
What contributed to your research interests?
I first studied the issue of occupational licensing as an undergraduate economics student and the issue has interested me ever since. At the time, I did not realize how widespread licensing had become over time, nor that it impacted so many people trying to earn a living. Occupational licensing is not just for lawyers and doctors; it affects hairdressers, tree trimmers, florists, interior designers, electricians, opticians, massage therapists, and more. It also impacts physicians who have passed their board exams but then face additional requirements by state. As an undergraduate student, it seemed to me very similar to a traditional cartel, and extensive research on the subject has illuminated its effects on both the labor force and consumer markets to a new degree. Beyond the subject of licensing, its impact on our health care system is significant but also changing as reformers try to revolutionize and improve access to services for patients. The economic effects of changing the rules represent massive potential for change, which first inspired me in my research.
How does your research relate to current issues?
My research is very relevant to current events and issues. Occupational licensing affects between a quarter and third of the U.S. workforce, far exceeding the share of the workforce impacted by such labor regulations as the minimum wage. Individuals face a myriad of occupational licensing requirements by state for hundreds of occupations, creating a barrier to employment and economic mobility. These barriers are present across income groups and locations, and there is a national movement to reform occupational licensing. This is also related to my research on health care provision and physician mobility, another group impacted by a myriad of state-by-state workforce regulations. Students interested in starting their own business or moving across state lines may be surprised to find they would have to start all over again to become licensed and find employment in their chosen professions. As the United States faces another economic crisis, it is vital that barriers to employment are reformed in a way that promotes workforce mobility and access, as well as ensuring customers have clear information about the providers with whom they do business.