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Copyright (c) 2013 The University of Chicago
The Journal of Law & Economics

ARTICLE: Licensing One of the World's Oldest Professions: Massage

May, 2013

The Journal of Law & Economics

56 J. Law & Econ. 371


Robert J. Thornton, Lehigh University and Edward J. Timmons, St. Francis University


1. Introduction

Occupational licensing in the United States directly affects more workers than either minimum-wage legislation or unionization, as noted by Kleiner (2000, 2006). But although the percentage of workers directly affected by occupational licensing (approximately 29 percent) is expected to grow even higher in the future, the effects of this labor market institution have nonetheless attracted limited attention in the economics literature. Moreover, an examination of previous research on the effects of occupational licensing on the numbers and earnings of practitioners reveals mixed results. There has been even less research devoted to the effects of occupational certification. Although the terms are (unfortunately) sometimes used interchangeably, licensing restricts the practice of an occupation to those who hold a license, while certification restricts the use of the title, but not the practice, to those who are certified.

In the present study, we analyze both the licensing and certification of massage therapists (MTs) and their effects. In the United States, massage therapy has recently become an important complement to conventional medical treatment, and the Department of Labor predicts that the profession will continue to grow over the next 10 years (U.S. Department of Labor 2010-11). Governmental regulation of the massage therapy profession has also spread in recent decades, but such regulation varies across states. As of 2010, most states now require MTs to be licensed, a handful of states require certification, and only seven states still have no form of state regulation of the profession. In some ...
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