ACRE Student Spotlight: Tanner Corley

By Caleb Taylor

What was the motivation and reasoning behind the original state regulation of barbers in Arkansas?

ACRE Undergraduate Research Fellow Tanner Corley explores this and more in a paper entitled “For Public Health or Private Gain?” co-authored with ACRE Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Marcus Witcher.

This topic is timely considering legislation was proposed, but not passed, in the 2019 legislative session that would’ve abolished the licensing and education requirements to become a barber in Arkansas.

According to the abstract of the paper:

For Public Health or Private Gain?” explores the development of the Barber Board in Arkansas during the Great Depression. Proponents of the barbers’ license law garnered support by adopting progressive era tactics. They decried unsanitary conditions as a public health threat while also complaining that increased competition drove down “proper” barber’s wages. Unions were the main supporters for regulation and saw licensing laws as an “end-all” to their efforts. The local and international Journeyman Barbers’ Union played a key role in getting a license law in Arkansas. Attempts to modernize and professionalize the trade for the barbers’ own benefits had mostly been unsuccessful until unions found power in the state legislature.  By creating the Board of Barber Examiners, backed by the State of Arkansas, the barber’s union in Arkansas was able to create regulations that benefited the most well-off barbers by pushing out competition and creating barriers to employment for poor laborers. Taking into account the effects of barbers’ license law in Arkansas, this paper will explore how the law came into effect and what proponents of the law sought to achieve by creating this regulating policy. 

Tanner Corley is from Bismarck, Arkansas. He is a junior with a double major in History and Political Science. After graduating he plans to attend graduate school for history.

Corley is a part of ACRE’s Research Fellowship Program. In this program, students work with a professor to write a publishable research paper that is presented at the annual SOBIE conference on April 15-17 in Destin, Florida. Corley has been working with Witcher to study the licensing of barbers in Arkansas.

For more of our work on occupational licensing, check out our labor market regulation page.