State-by-State Analysis Finds that Fair Chance Licensing Reforms Can Address Worker Shortages

November 10, 2021

As states across the nation struggle with labor shortages, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center launched the Fair Chance Licensing Project, an unprecedented effort to track new reforms across all 50 states that reduce barriers to employment for people with criminal and juvenile records. The project also provides resources for lawmakers, business leaders, workforce organizations, and community advocates to explore how these reforms, known as “fair chance licensing,” can help address the current worker shortage.

In the new digital resource, you can

  • Watch firsthand accounts from people who have been prevented from getting occupational licenses due to their criminal records;
  • Hear from one state representative who is advancing fair chance licensing laws in his state; and
  • View our 14 fair chance licensing maps that show the strategies states are adopting to advance fair chance licensing.

Nearly one in four jobs require a government-issued license proving someone has relevant qualifications. This licensing can act as an obstacle, however, especially for people with criminal or juvenile records. Many people with records are prohibited from applying for licenses and discouraged from seeking these jobs. Excluding these individuals can have devastating effects on their future income and employment, limit the talent pool for employers, and slow economic growth.

Join our #JusticeBriefingLive event: “Addressing the Nation’s Hiring Crisis: How States are Unlocking Talent through Fair Chance Licensing Reform,” on Thursday, November 18th from 12:00-12:45 p.m. ET for an overview of fair chance legislative reforms. Register here >>

A criminal or juvenile record can be a barrier to a person’s ability to get a job or an education—even after years have passed and regardless of the efforts the person has made to put their life on a positive track. Fair chance licensing legislation breaks down these barriers and gives people a fair shot to access meaningful employment. And it ensures qualified workers remain in the talent pool to aid our nation’s economic recovery.
Megan Quattlebaum
Director of the CSG Justice Center

According to multiple research studies, occupations with higher licensing burdens, including restrictions on people with records, result in lower levels of employment in licensed fields. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has reported that half as many workers are available for every job opening in the United States compared to the average number available over the past 20 years.

Because of this, states are beginning to recognize that policies that exclude qualified workers are limiting their state’s economic recovery. During the 2021 legislative session, 10 legislatures across the country made significant progress in adopting laws that promote best practices to expand licensing opportunities for people with criminal histories. The CSG Justice Center has identified 14 best practices that support fair chance licensing. These include creating detailed standards to ensure that all applicants are fairly considered in the full context of their past and current circumstances and allowing workers to find out whether their criminal history will result in the denial of a license before investing time and money into pursuing necessary education or training.

Barriers to work can have devastating effects on people with criminal records, but fair chance licensing legislation can reduce these barriers. To learn more:


This project was conducted with support from Arnold Ventures. We would also like to thank the people who appeared in the project videos: Nick Aponte, Lester Young, and State Representative Kyle Koehler.

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