Onerous Regulations Hinder Budding Nevada Barbers

Marcos Lopez

Notice recently that your barber’s prices have gone up? It’s not just inflation but also a consequence of burdensome barriers intended to protect entrenched industry incumbents by limiting competition.

Nevada currently has the most restrictive regulatory regime in the nation for prospective barbers. Luckily, state Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Clark County) has introduced Senate Bill 265, which has the potential to start tackling the regulatory chaos that plagues our Nevada Revised Statues and set the state on a path to significantly enhance economic growth and improve income mobility.

However, this potential can only be realized if the bill’s scope is broadened to eliminate the licensed apprentice requirement, which would reduce the required hours to obtain a barbery license from 1,500 to 1,000 and clarify the “good character” clause.

While the original intent of SB 265 is to create a studentship program to help create an additional pathway to state licensure, this should serve as an auxiliary reform, not an alternative, to reducing the core barriers prospective barbers face.

It can achieve this by allowing the studentship to act as a substitute for costly training or exams. There is, however, no way to better unlock potential for barbers in Nevada than taking the razor straight to the crux of the problem.

Today it takes an estimated 896 days for a prospective barber to obtain their license in Nevada, making the process the longest in the country and nearly three times longer than the national average (319 days).

Meanwhile, barbers in our neighboring states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah face significantly less restrictive barriers.

Oregon, for example, has the lowest requirements in the region, with $120 fees, 786 training hours and three exams totaling up to 181 days to complete, while Arizona has the highest neighboring state requirements with $300 fees, 1,200 training hours and two exams, taking a cumulative 280 days.

When you compare this to Nevada’s $165 fees, 1,500 training hours, 18-month apprentice requirement and four exams, you start to see why the Nevada Barbers Guild fights any reform that might simplify the process for prospective barbers.

The guild’s objective is to help existing members, so it has no incentive to make Nevada more attractive for potential competition. To any objective observer, it is clear this regulatory regime is hindering economic growth and increasing consumer costs in Nevada without any clear benefits in terms of quality or safety.

But if you let the lobbyists for the Barbers Guild speak, any change is tantamount to unleashing unqualified and unsanitary Sweeny Todd-like demon barbers. This is an exaggeration, of course, but fair ridicule should never be withheld against those who advocate for or engage in rent-seeking and regulatory capture, particularly if they clothe their naked economic villainy in the language of reformists while hindering progress at every step.

Policy Recommendations

In order of importance and impact, tackling the following reforms will streamline the process and help Nevadans climb the economic ladder:

  • Eliminate Apprentice Requirement (NRS 643.070) – Nevada’s 18-month apprenticeship requirement accounts for 60 percent of the nearly 900 days (almost two and a half years) it takes to become a licensed barber.

Currently, only two states (Kentucky, at six months, and North Carolina, at 12 months, still have this requirement, and in recent years, four states (Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) have eliminated their apprentice requirements completely. This means that 43 states do not require any licensed apprenticeship to obtain a barber’s license.

  • Training Hours Reduction to 1000 – In the past five years, 12 states (Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin) decreased their training hours to an average of 974 hours (a little more than 120 eight-hour days), bringing the total to 27 states requiring fewer hours than Nevada.

The Future of Beauty Industry Coalition  has noted that there is no relationship between required hours and earnings, pass rates on licensing exams and completion rates. However, they have observed a correlation between higher required hours and increased student costs, higher student federal debt load and a negative correlation between program length and employment rates.

There is little evidence that occupational licensure has a significant effect on the quality of services received by consumers or that the wide-ranging requirements across 50 states have impacted safety. In contrast, extensive literature exists showing increased cost to consumers due to licensure.

  • Define or Eliminate the Good Moral Character (GMC) & Temperate Habits Clause (NRS 643.070) – Good moral character clauses are vague. In 2020, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation commissioned a review of the occupational licensing regime in Nevada and determined that “the degree to which boards decide to rely on a GMC statute in determining an applicant’s acceptance into a licensed occupation can vary widely,” and that they were “unable to find publicly available information on the boards’ GMC assessment criteria.”

Interviews with select Nevada occupational licensing board representatives revealed a broad scope of criteria used to determine an individual’s character, usually either character references or criminal history. Many states have moved to clarify this ambiguity by either specifying the language to mean certain convictions related directly to the occupation or completely removing GMC requirements for all licensed occupations in the state, as seen in Mississippi and Oklahoma.

The licensing regime that prospective or transplant barbers face in Nevada is the most burdensome and onerous in the nation, taking an estimated 896 days to complete, nearly three times the national average.

The main driving cause for this inflated number is Nevada’s outdated 18-month apprenticeship requirement and its regionally high 1,500 training hours. There is little to no economic evidence supporting claims that these high barriers produce any benefits in the quality of barbers or increased safety for consumers.

Plenty of economic research links them to increased consumer costs and reduced competition by imposing costly and vague barriers, such as numerous mandatory exams or good moral character requirements.

By addressing these core issues and implementing an auxiliary studentship program, SB 265 lead to a more competitive, dynamic and prosperous market that will benefit both the industry and consumers alike, and unlock economic growth for Nevadans, new and established.

Marcos Lopez

Marcos Lopez

Policy Fellow

Marcos Lopez serves as a Policy Fellow for Nevada Policy. For over a decade, Marcos has fought to advance free-market principles, limited government, and secure individual rights through electioneering, lobbying, and grassroots mobilization at all levels of government across nine states and Washington D.C.

Originally from Miami, Marcos moved to Nevada in 2015 and has lived in Reno and Las Vegas, where he currently resides. His main areas of focus include economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and school choice. Marcos’ work and efforts have been recognized and featured in The New York Times, The Las Vegas Review Journal, The Nevada Independent, This is Reno, and The Nevada Current.