Occupational Licensing Causes a Wage Premium: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Colorado's Funeral Services Industry
Originally published in International Review of Law and Economics
We study the effect of occupational licensing on wages in the funeral services industry using a rare natural experiment. In 1983, Colorado delicensed funeral services. Using difference-in-differences, difference-in-difference-in-differences, and synthetic control specifications, we compare wages in Colorado’s funeral services industry to wages in the US funeral services industry. Overall, the results from difference-in-differences, difference-in-difference-in-differences, and synthetic control specifications suggest occupational licensing causes a wage premium of 11–12%. We find similar results from a standard cross-sectional wage regression using data on individuals in 1990. Thus, this suggests that cross-sectional regressions of wages on occupational licensing in other industries are a good baseline estimate of a causal effect. We also find that licensing increases prices and appears to push consumers away from cremation and towards more expensive burial procedures.