Despite the dental cartel’s effort to silence me with hired goons it remains the case that one of the craziest policy practices common in the United States of America is widespread rules against self-employed dental hygenists. The way this works is that both dental hygenists and dentists are licensed occupations. And they perform distinct functions. Given the nature of the work, it’s quite natural that some dental hygenists would be employed by dentists. But it’s also natural that some dental hygenists wouldn’t be so employed. After all, there’s a lot of demand for teeth cleaning as such. But in many states, it’s illegal for a hygenist to work unless she works for a dentist.
The results, report Morris M. Kleiner and Kyoung Won Park, are bad for consumers and bad for economic equality:
We find that states that allow hygienists to be self-employed have about 10 percent higher earnings, and that dentists in those states have lower earnings and slower employment growth. Several sensitivity and falsification tests using other regulated and partially regulated occupations show that our licensing measures are generally robust to alternative specifications. Our estimates are consistent with the view that winning the policy and legal battle in the legislature and courts on the independence of work rules matters in the labor market for these occupations.
There’s been a lot of interest over the past ten years among progressives in the subject of the political origins of growing income inequality. But I find there’s been less interest in trying to explore specifically what those origins might be. It’s not all overregulation of dental hygenists (obviously) but it’s also not all Bush tax cuts and Commodity Futures Modernization Act either.