Doctors with Borders: Occupational Licensing as an Implicit Barrier to High-Skill Migration

34 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2013 Last revised: 3 Dec 2013

See all articles by Brenton Peterson

Brenton Peterson

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

Sonal S. Pandya

University of Virginia

David A. Leblang

University of Virginia; University of Virginia - College of Arts and Sciences; University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

Date Written: November 2013

Abstract

Research on the political economy of immigration overlooks the specificity of skills in high skill occupations and its implications for immigration preferences and policymaking. Assessments that skilled Americans are unconcerned about labor market competition from skilled migrants build on a simple dichotomy between high and low skill migrants. In this article we show that natives turn to occupational licensing regulations as occupation-specific, protectionist barriers to skilled migrant labor competition. In practice, high skill natives face labor market competition from only those high-skill migrants who share their occupation-specific skills. Licensure regulations ostensibly serve the public interest by certifying competence but they can simultaneously be formidable barriers to skilled migrants’ labor entry. From a collective action perspective, skilled natives can more easily secure subnational, occupation-specific policies than influence national immigration policy. We exploit the unique structure of the American medical profession that allows us to distinguish between public interest and protectionist motives for migrant physician licensure regulations. We show that over the period 1973-2010 states with greater physician control over licensure requirements imposed more stringent requirements for migrant physician licensure and, as a consequence, received fewer new migrant physicians. By our estimates half of all US states could resolve their physician shortages within five year just by equalizing migrant and native licensure requirements. This article advances research on the political economy of immigration and highlights an overlooked dimension of international economic integration: regulatory rent-seeking as a barrier to the cross-national mobility of human capital, and the public policy implications of such barriers.

Keywords: occupational licensing, rent-seeking, physcian shortages, skill mobility

JEL Classification: J44, I11, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Peterson, Brenton and Pandya, Sonal S. and Leblang, David A., Doctors with Borders: Occupational Licensing as an Implicit Barrier to High-Skill Migration (November 2013). Public Choice, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2291917 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2291917

Brenton Peterson

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

Sonal S. Pandya (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

David A. Leblang

University of Virginia ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

University of Virginia - College of Arts and Sciences ( email )

VA
United States

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

235 McCormick Rd.
P.O. Box 400893
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4893
United States

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