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Does occupational licensing costs disproportionately affect the self-employed?

Alicia Morgan Plemmons (Department of Economics and Finance, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy

ISSN: 2045-2101

Article publication date: 3 July 2020

Issue publication date: 13 July 2021




The purpose of this study is to analyze how occupational licensing costs within a state affect the performance of self-employed firms, as measured through annual sales.


This study utilizes an empirical approach to determine if there are additional effects on the annual sales for firms that are self-employed in high-cost states that are not explained through the individual estimations. Since the choice of self-employment is plausibly nonrandom, this study also uses a propensity score matching method to develop a matched subsample of self-employed and employee-maintaining firms. This selection methodology ensures that the set of self-employed and employee-maintaining firm observations are similar in all measurable attributes besides their regulatory environment and firm structure. Using this representative subsample, the empirical framework is repeated to reevaluate the effects of high occupational licensing fees on the sales of self-employed firms.


In both the unmatched and matched samples, there are significant, large, negative interactions representing a reduction in annual sales per employee within self-employed firms relative to employee-maintaining firms when located in states with above-average occupational licensing costs. The results using the matched subsamples are noticeably smaller in magnitude, which indicates that future policy assessments would benefit from ensuring that the sample pool, when dealing with self-employment, is limited only to firms under a common convex hull in order to not skew the size of results.


This study contributes new understanding of the financial relationship of self-employed firms and occupational licensing costs using firm-level observations of sales and firm structure. This has important policy implications for the development and evaluation of occupational licensing policies when considering effects on the self-employed.



This paper forms part of a special section “Occupational Licensing and Entrepreneurship”, guest edited by Edward J. Timmons.


Plemmons, A.M. (2021), "Does occupational licensing costs disproportionately affect the self-employed?", Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 175-188.



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