Fixing America’s Physician Shortage with Immigrants

by John Sides on January 22, 2013

in Health Care,Immigration,Political Economy

Skills are often occupation-specific, a fact missing from existing research on the political economy of immigration. Although analyses of survey data suggest broad support for skilled migration occupational licensing regulations persist as formidable barriers to skilled migrants’ labor market entry. Regulations ostensibly serve the public interest by certifying competence but are simultaneously rent-preserving entry barriers. We analyze both the sources of US states’ licensure requirements for international medical graduates (IMGs), and the effect of these regulations on migrant physicians’ choice of US state in which to work over the period 1973-2010. Analysis of original data shows that states with self-financing state medical licensing boards, which can more easily be captured by incumbent physicians, have more stringent IMG licensure requirements. Additionally, we find that states that require IMGs to complete longer periods of supervised training receive fewer migrants. Our empirical results are robust to controls for states’ physician labor market. This research identifies an overlooked dimension of international economic integration: implicit barriers to the cross-national mobility of human capital, and the public policy implications of such barriers.

That’s from a new paper from Brendan Peterson, Sonal Pandya, and David Leblang.  The (catchy) title is “Doctors With Borders: Occupational Licensing as an Implicit Barrier to High Skill Migration.”  A press release is here, with this quote from Pandya:

…unelected U.S. state regulators are dictating the international transferability of skills through occupational licensing barriers, and removing such barriers has the potential to address some of our most pressing public policy concerns.

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