Licensing doesn't hurt nurses' interstate movement

Occupational licensing does little to hinder nurses’ movement across state lines, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Critics of nurse licensing have argued it can exacerbate statewide nursing shortages by keeping nurses from migrating to states where their licenses don’t transfer. But economists have found that regulations allowing nurses to work across state borders still didn’t prompt nurses to move to higher-demand states to practice in. Such compacts had “no effect…on a variety of labor market outcomes of nurses such as labor force participation, employment levels, hours worked, earnings, and likelihood of working across state lines,” according to research by economists Christina DePasquale and Kevin Stange.

The research encompassed 1.8 million healthcare workers covered by the Nurse Licensure Compact, which began in 2000 and covered 25 states. Three key factors seem to affect nurse mobility, according to Stange, a public policy professor at University of Michigan: family or social ties to a certain area; the labor market’s gradual loss of fluidity; or, in some cases, the fact that re-applying for a new state’s license simply isn’t too much of an undertaking for most nurses to be willing to go through the motions.

University of Minnesota economist Morris Kleiner also theorized licensing affects interstate migration less for nurses than it does for other licensed workers; forthcoming research by Kleiner and Janna Johnson finds considerably more mobility in the nursing field than that of other licensed professionals such as dentists, teachers and lawyers. There’s also a gender angle, according to Kleiner: as nurses are overwhelmingly women, they are more likely to be their households’ secondary earners, and as such they may move due to their husbands’ careers, not their own.

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