Along with eating breakfast and exercising, showering is something most of us include in our daily routines. While there is some debate as to how often people should shampoo their hair, it is safe to say that most people would certainly consider themselves more than qualified to complete the task.
Why is it, then, that some states require individuals to obtain a license to work as a shampooer? Moreover, why is it harder to work as a shampooer in the state of Tennessee than in any other state?
The Volunteer State requires aspiring shampoo technicians to complete 70 days of education and experience in order to obtain a license. In fact, less education and experience are required to operate paving equipment, install a mobile home or work as an emergency medical technician in Tennessee than to work as a shampooer.
According to research conducted by the Institute for Justice, a handful of states currently require shampooers to have a license. Those states, in turn, award licensed shampooers the very formal-sounding title of “shampoo technician.” But is the title really worth the cost?
Proponents of occupational licensing often argue that licensing sets minimum quality standards. As consumers, we have limited access to information about the qualifications of professionals such as doctors and dentists. At least with licensing, we know that a doctor has completed medical school and a residency.
In the case of shampooers (or, in this case, shampoo technicians), it is unclear what benefit consumers receive from licensing. It should be mentioned that online rating sites can provide relevant information about a person’s shampooing proficiency without the regulatory burdens of licensing laws.
A bad shampoo is not a case of life or death. The risk of getting a dab of soap in someone’s eye should hardly be considered a serious risk to public safety.
So what harm could occupational licensing regulations possibly inflict on society? The proof lies in the pockets of consumers.
Research suggests that licensing increases the prices of all services for consumers, with much less convincing evidence that it improves the quality of those services.
In addition to potentially raising prices for consumers, requiring shampooers in Tennessee to obtain a license would also discourage aspiring entrepreneurs from entering the state’s job market. The case of Pritchard v. Board of Cosmetology specifically illustrates the difficulties associated with attempting to enter the current market.
However, according to history, it is not likely that the state’s policymakers will review the cost-benefit ratio when reconsidering current licensing laws. In a comprehensive survey that I performed with Robert Thornton of Lehigh University, we were only able to uncover eight cases in the last 40 years in which occupational licensing was removed by state legislatures.
For now, would-be entrepreneurs who are banned from the job market until further notice may have to rely on the courts to relieve them from these seemingly arbitrary barriers to employment. Hopefully, shampooers all across the United States will soon be free to lather without a license.