New ASU mobile app designed to promote civic education

October 26, 2020

A new mobile app from Arizona State University aims to bring comprehensive civic education resources to the hands of thousands of students and teachers across the state and country. 

CivEd launched on the Apple App Store and Google Play store this week. Developed by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, CivEd offers a number of resources for students, teachers and citizens interested in learning more about the democratic process and U.S. history. The app’s initial features include the Civic Literacy Curriculum and the Civic Classics Collection Virtual Guide. New ASU app CivEd launched on the Apple App Store and Google Play store this week. Download Full Image

The Civic Literacy Curriculum is a seven-section civics curriculum based on the naturalization test from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is given to everyone going through the U.S. naturalized citizen process. Each section focuses on a specific subject matter, ranging from rights and responsibilities as citizens to colonial period and independence history. They include study guides, a plethora of free videos and flash cards. The app also includes the full, 100-question test used by the USCIS. 

The Civic Classics Collection Virtual Guide is a new way to view and study famous American works of political thought and original writings from iconic moments in U.S. history. Housed at ASU Library, the Civic Classics Collection contains more than 20 works ranging from a first edition copy of the Federalist Papers to a signed copy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Stride Toward Freedom." The virtual guide brings these great works to the fingertips of thousands of students, who can now watch in-depth videos, read about the works and participate in offline learning activities. 

“The next generation of Americans need to be informed voters, yes — but they also need to be active and informed participants in politics beyond and between elections,” said Adam Seagrave, associate director for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “CivEd provides the accessible resources necessary for all Americans across the country to grow in the civic knowledge necessary to fulfill their high calling as participants in American constitutional democracy.”

Designed to fix a larger problem

CivEd and the efforts behind it stem from the school and its centers’ efforts to bring civic education back to the top of the priority list for American education systems. According to Marketplace, the U.S. now spends roughly only $4 million on civics education across the country, or what equates to roughly $54 per student annually. That’s compared to almost $3 billion for STEM spending. 

“This persistent civics gap undermines all citizens, but disproportionally affects civics engagement and empowerment for underrepresented communities, impacting everything from voter turnout to trust in our institutions,” said Lucian Spataro, interim director of the Center for Political Thought and Leadership. “With this in mind, it should come as no surprise, when people do not understand the system by which they are governed, including how to effect change in that system, they are naturally frustrated and this often leads to protests, disengagement from the political process, and in some cases even violence. So from a student's perspective, we want them leaning forward and learning so they graduate as informed, engaged, and responsible citizens.”

Spataro previously led the Joe Foss Institute, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit that joined the Center for Political Thought and Leadership in November 2019. The Joe Foss Institute led efforts in more than 30 states — including Arizona — to require a civic education exam for students before they graduate high school. The CivEd app acts as a study preparation and tool for teachers to measure their students before they take the actual test. 

“Teachers and students in states who passed (civic education legislation) are driven to our site in an effort to fulfill that requirement,” Spataro added. “In other cases, teachers will use this assessment and this course content as baseline knowledge that is a ‘must’ that students need and they then teach up and in more depth from here.”

Continuing to grow 

The school will continue to add features to CivEd in the coming months, including several of its civic education initiatives and outreach programs. It’s currently working on adding an essential version of the Arizona state constitution to the mobile app, as part of the school’s Arizona Constitution Project. The Arizona Constitution Project aims to make the state’s founding document and the story of its creation more accessible to the state’s citizens. It will also incorporate the Race and American Story course taught by Seagrave, which helps college students confront difficult conversations around race in America. 

The school is also planning to add access to its public programs through the mobile app. As ASU has continued to prioritize virtual events in the time of the pandemic, the school has produced two speaker series since March, including one that focused on conversations around the pandemic and another to address recent racial events across America. 

Director, Communications, Phoenix Bioscience Core

image title

Tough questions about 'Race, Justice and Leadership in America'

The next "Race, Justice & Leadership" talk will take place Monday, Oct. 19.
October 15, 2020

ASU School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership discussion series addresses civic crisis of conscience

Over this past summer, statue after statue of historical figures were uprooted from their foundations in parks, plazas and thoroughfares across America as civil unrest following a spate of killings of unarmed Black men and women caused many to seriously question the worthiness of some of the prominent individuals our country has long venerated.

While many of the statues to meet their demise depicted long-contested leaders of the Confederate Army, when statues of presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were toppled in Portland, Oregon, it seemed no historical figure was safe from the judgment of modern-day citizens.

Such circumstances raise such questions as how much we can hold past leaders accountable for, what their true motivations were and whether there is anything we can learn from them today.

It is those questions that Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership seeks to answer with its “Race, Justice and Leadership in America” events, a four-part discussion series launched this fall as part of the school’s popular Civic Discourse Project in direct response to ASU President Michael Crow’s call to address racial events in America.

The series kicked off Oct. 12 with a discussion of George Washington and will go on to examine other famous leaders of thought and action, including Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is the brainchild of School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Associate Professor Adam Seagrave, co-founder of Race and the American Story, a national educational project that brings together faculty and students from universities around the country to discuss race and its impact on college campuses.

The Oct. 12 discussion welcomed Professor William B. Allen of Michigan State University, author of “George Washington: A Collection” and “George Washington: America’s First Progressive.” It began with the acknowledgment that Washington was not only a slave owner but a slave trader. And yet, in his will, he made a provision to free all of the slaves he held, knowing full well it would be broadly read.

To understand the apparent contradiction, we must understand that Washington underwent a profound conversion, one that no other figure in the founding generation made as well as him, according to Allen. At first, for Washington, owning slaves was simply a part of the society in which he lived.

“The real story of George Washington is not that he was a slaveholder, any more that he breathed oxygen (as anyone living on Earth must breathe oxygen),” Allen said. “The real story is how he matured into the serious moral conviction that slavery was wrong.”

Having reached that conviction, the abolishment of slavery became his “first wish,” as he wrote in a letter to his contemporary Robert Morris, an English-born merchant known as the “Financier of the Revolution.”

Still, Washington also knew it was something that could only be accomplished through legislative means, and that was something that required time and finesse. For this reason, Allen said, Washington’s public actions didn’t always appear to align with his privately held opinions.

“He quite subconsciously understood that you couldn’t shape a nation by command,” Allen said. “It had to be accomplished through the agency of the people themselves. One could inspire but one could not command the accomplishment of national character.”

In response to a question posed by School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Director Paul Carrese regarding what he called a growing cultural tendency to call for the complete banishment of Washington and other similar historical figures from the national memory, despite their contributions to the formation of America, for their failure to act immediately on such issues as emancipation, Allen said, “The answer to these people is to say you are stripping yourself naked with nothing to protect you if you reject the founding of the United States (as the source of the idea behind a government in which) all men are created equal.”

The next discussion in the series “Race, Social Justice and Higher Education Today: How Racist Are Universities, Really?” will take place Monday, Oct. 19, at 5 p.m. and will feature Professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

ASU collection of rare, historically significant books made accessible to the public online

October 12, 2020

Editor’s note:  This story is being highlighted in ASU Now’s year in review. Read more top stories from 2020.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for National Book Month. Read more from this series: 16 books to read this Halloween.

“The Federalist Papers,” a collection of short essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in 1788, is one of the most well-known pro-Constitution writings. A first-edition printing of this book, along with 23 other rare books and manuscripts related to significant figures, moments, ideas, debates and movements from American history, can be explored through Arizona State University’s Civic Classics Collection.

The collection, maintained by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Center for Political Thought and Leadership and ASU Library, covers a range of topics including the founding of America, political economy, race and America, civil rights history and activism, and first peoples.

Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, first established the collection in 2017 in collaboration with senior members of the university administration. Since then, the collection has grown to further research in American political thought and support civic education within and beyond the classroom. 

Gettysburg Address

A photo of Abraham Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address (1864) from 
a first-edition copy of "Autograph 
Leaves of Our Country's Authors," 
in Lincoln's handwriting from the 
Civic Classics Collection.

Jakub Voboril, a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, joined the project after the first handful of items were purchased and helps coordinate the school’s efforts with the library.

“We slowly began to collect items such as a first-edition printing of ‘The Federalist;’ a first-edition printing of Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations;’ a contemporaneous printing of the Seneca Falls Declaration or Declaration of Sentiments printed in Frederick Douglass’ North Star newspaper; two signed, first-edition books by Martin Luther King Jr.; a first-edition printing of Frederick Douglass’ biography; and many more,” Voboril said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the books and manuscripts were regularly on display through public programming. Although no-cost appointments for individuals to view the collection are still currently available, those involved in the project hope to return to normal in-person programming as soon as possible. 

“We want to continue to increase access to the collection, and we are committed to the collection being a public civic education resource for all Arizonans,” Voboril said. “We are constantly brainstorming new ideas to allow more and more people to engage with it. Our virtual guide is a big step in this direction ... but nothing can quite replace seeing the books in person, so we want to hit the ground running when in-person display of our collection becomes possible again.”

Through the virtual guide, a number of materials from the collection have been made available online. On the website, users can explore different titles through videos, text, photographs, learning activities and more.

Voboril said he realized how powerful and moving these books can be when he took one of his classes to visit the library and see a few of the items up close and personal.

“I remember the awe one student displayed when she got to see our copy of ‘The Federalist’ and the excitement of another student upon seeing our copy of the Seneca Falls Declaration. I have been fortunate enough to see these responses subsequently replicated many times. It is wonderful to share a great treasure with others.”

Over the years, countless ASU staff and faculty have contributed to the development of the collection and its associated online resources including library leaders Jim O’DonnellLorrie McAllister and Kathy Krzys, as well as Voboril and Carrese. Throughout the fall semester, three undergraduate students, Anusha Natarajan, Bronwyn Doebbeling and Kathryn Clark have also been helping to improve the virtual guide.

Julie Tanaka, who recently joined the library as curator of rare books and manuscripts and interim head of distinctive collections, said she looks forward to bringing her expertise in rare materials and teaching with special collections to enhance the programming already in place and to expand the use of the collection.

“With the original core of the Civic Classics Collection as the foundation, I would like to build this collection into one of Distinctive Collections' featured collections, expanding the purview to provide the historical context for the ideas that are in these important pieces of American thought and to situate them in a comparative, global perspective,” Tanaka said.

Moving forward, those involved in the project are eager to add to the collection, with plans to widen the diversity of voices and topics included while placing American political thought in a global, comparative context. 

“My hope is that visitors to our collection will find themselves moved by what they see and motivated to engage seriously with the ideas and debates these items contain and become more thoughtful, reflective citizens,” Voboril said. “In this way, the collection would fulfill its purpose to advance both our school’s and the university’s efforts to promote civic education.

Interested in viewing the collection? Reach out to the library directly, or contact Voboril at

ASU In the News

Phoenix falls in ASU ranking of cities that are best for small businesses in North America

When it comes to helping small businesses, Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson rank near the middle of the pack, according to a new Arizona State University study.

Mesa ranked 58th best of 130 North American cities for ease of doing business in the study conducted by the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at ASU. That was one spot better than Phoenix, which ranked 59th. Tucson finished a bit lower, 69th overall. Phoenix, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona. Getty Images

Phoenix fell from 20th place in last year's study, the first one conducted. The most notable drop was in starting a business, which evaluates the processes, time and costs to establish a limited liability company, as well as licensing, permitting and more.

Phoenix also fell in other areas including employing workers, getting electricity and paying taxes. 

Mesa and Tucson weren't ranked in the 2019 report, which evaluated a smaller number of 115 cities.

Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson each graded well for resolving insolvencies and obtaining electricity for getting a business started.

Article Source:

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

image title

ASU 'Doing Business' report ranks 130 cities on rules that hinder commerce

Mesa tops Phoenix in ASU's latest "Doing Business North America" rankings.
October 6, 2020

ASU undergraduates help with huge research project on regulations

Starting a business is complicated, and entrepreneurs must consider many factors when deciding where to set up shop. How long will it take to get approval? How much must employees be paid? Even, is the electricity reliable?

A new report from Arizona State University analyzed more than 12,000 data points to rank cities in North America on how easy it is to start a business.

“Doing Business North America 2020,” released Oct. 5, is the second edition of a report that employs undergraduate researchers to compare a wide range of business regulations among 130 cities in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The project is led by The Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, a joint endeavor of the W. P. Carey School of Business and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

“Doing Business North America” started two years ago based on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, and this year involved nine undergraduates in different disciplines, led by Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow and project director at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty.

“Policymakers are interested in this in order to make sure they have a healthy economy and a base of people to fill their cities,” Slivinski said.

The students pored over publicly available data sets and websites, collecting information such as the laws covering maternity leave, how many steps it takes to get the power turned on, and how high the tax rate is. Some of the variables score cities on how transparent and accessible the information is.

The more regulations a city has, such as required paid time off or multiple steps for rezoning, the lower the score.

Among the cities evaluated, Raleigh, North Carolina, ranked first in overall ease of doing business, with a score of 82.42 out of 100.

Phoenix, which came in 20th last year, ranks 59th this year, scoring 79.43 out of 100. The other two Arizona cities ranked were Mesa, 58th, with a score of 79.53, and Tucson, 69th, 60.06.

Compared with last year, the new report adds 15 cities, including Mesa and Tucson, for a total of 130.

Mesa, home to ASU's Polytechnic campus, was added to the Doing Business North America research project this year and ranked 58th, one spot ahead of Phoenix. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The team also added new research variables.

“One group of variables has to do with the ability for a business to get reliable electricity, using engineering best practice standards – how often there are brownouts, the duration of the brownouts,” Slivinski said. “This is an important feature for a lot of places – even places you don’t expect, like California. They have serious issues now.”

Another new variable is zoning.

Many studies have examined the impact of regulations on the supply and demand of residential land, Slivinski said.

“But no one has done that for commercial property, and we figured there would be a similar impact,” he said. “Would zoning regulations make it more difficult or easier to build or rent an office building?”

So the team took the methodology of the Wharton Residential Land Use Regulation Index and applied it to commercial property.

“As far as we know, it’s the first time anyone has done that,” Slivinski said.

The “land and space use” category compares things like the number of approvals needed for zoning (one in Houston and Washington, D.C.; two in the Arizona cities; five each in St. Louis and Birmingham, Alabama) and whether there’s an environmental review board for rezoning (no in Arizona and Maine, yes in California and Georgia).

One reason that Phoenix dropped in the rankings was because of low scores on commercial zoning regulations, according to Mason Hunt, project coordinator for the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty.

“Adding the zoning stuff probably hurt them the most, as well as ‘autopilot’ changes from year to year, like the rising minimum wage,” he said.

Besides land and space use, the other categories that cities are compared by are starting a business; employing workers; getting electricity; registering property; paying taxes and resolving insolvency. All of the data is available for download by the public.

Slivinski said that last year’s debut report drew a positive response.

“It’s been policymakers, people at the city council level in particular, but also academics and other researchers, who saw in this data a great opportunity to research migration and why people move from one city to another,” he said.

“But most important, the attention gets at the kinds of things we really should be measuring.”

Steven Moore, a senior majoring in civic and economic thought leadership, is one of the students who has been working on the project since it started.

“From version one to version two, we really got to sharpen our methodology and our approach to collecting raw data, which is a big part of what I did,” Moore said.

The students sorted through an enormous volume of online data to pull out facts like cities’ commercial tax rates. And they couldn’t depend always on municipal web sites.

“You’re looking at a PDF that might be really old. You would imagine that the information would be more up-to-date,” he said.

“Then we had to see if the sourcing was consistent, and whether there were any outliers.”

Slivinski said that the team is interested to see how trends develop, and especially whether there are effects from the pandemic.

“One thing would probably have to do with employees’ ability to work remotely,” he said. “There are tax provisions and licenses that go into that and we may be able to measure those types of things.

“We hope to add a handful of cities every year and have enough of a time frame to see a good, strong pattern emerge over the course of multiple years.”

The analysis showed a wide range of experiences in starting a business:

  • Average number of days it takes to start a business: one in Anchorage to 28 in Fargo, North Dakota. (12 in the Arizona cities.)
  • Minimum wage ranges from $5.15 in Atlanta and Cheyenne, Wyoming, to $15.59 in San Francisco.
  • Most cities don’t require any paid or unpaid maternity leave. Portland, Oregon, requires 24 weeks of unpaid leave.
  • Many cities don’t require businesses to offer any paid sick leave days, including Atlanta, Denver and Tampa, Florida. Wilmington, Delaware, requires 15 days. Arizona requires five days.

Raleigh, new to the list this year, took the top spot from the 2019 winner, Oklahoma City, which fell to 16th. The second- through 10th-place cities: Jackson, Mississippi; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Charleston, South Carolina; Houston; San Antonio; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Cincinnati; and Cheyenne.

The cities on the bottom of the list were all in Mexico. The lowest ranking U.S. cities are: Philadelphia, 71st; Portland, Oregon, 72nd; Portland, Maine, 73rd; Buffalo, New York, 74th; Providence, Rhode Island, 75th; Newark, New Jersey, 76th; San Diego, 77th; San Jose, California, 79th; New York, 80th, and Los Angeles, 81st.

Edmonton, Alberta, is the highest ranking Canadian city at 78th and Tijuana is the highest ranking Mexican city at 86th.

The Center for the Study of Economic Liberty is holding a free webinar at noon Thursday to discuss Doing Business North America 2020.

Top image: Phoenix, which came in 20th last year, ranks 59th this year in the Doing Business North America rankings. Photo credit: ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at ASU welcomes new associate center director

October 1, 2020

H. Christian Kim has joined the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University as the associate director. In addition, Kim has been appointed associate professor in the Department of Marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“We are thrilled to have Christian join the Center,” said Ross Emmett, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. “He will launch a research program on the connection between economic liberty and people's appreciation for economic and social mobility. He is also interested in enlarging the center's Doing Business North America profile among business and economics researchers.” H. Christian Kim, associate center director H. Christian Kim

Kim will assist the center director with developing other projects that strengthen the relationship between the center's programs and business and economics education and scholarship.

Kim’s research interests include issues surrounding self-control, materialism, branding, social perception and behavioral pricing self-control. He examines issues in these areas using lab and field experiments as well as survey instruments. Among his research topics, economic mobility and materialism are pertinent to the center.

“Increased economic mobility is assumed to be a consequence of economic freedom, but there is little evidence to support the causal relationship,” Kim said. “Having been trained in behavioral science, I am interested in investigating how issues surrounding economic mobility and materialism affect human behavior and well-being in order to provide theoretical and managerial implications. This will help further the impact of the CSEL's research enterprise.”

Kim holds a PhD in marketing from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University. Prior to joining ASU, he was an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.

His work has been published at top journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, and the Journal of Consumer Psychology, among others. His research has been widely covered by the media including Time, New York Times Magazine, and The Independent, to name a few.

Outside the university, Kim enjoys playing various musical instruments, reading books on the world wars and physics, and hiking, with the Bernese Alps and the Mont Blanc Massif being his favorite hiking destinations.

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

New director at Center for Political Thought and Leadership seeks to drive civic education mission forward

September 25, 2020

The Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University has named Lucian Spataro as its new interim director to lead the center’s mission of enhancing civic education in schools across the country. 

Spataro will be responsible for overseeing the center’s civic education initiatives, as well as the center’s fundraising goals and efforts to establish national partnerships highlighting the importance of civic education in schools and communities around the country.  Lucian Spataro, interim director, Center for Political Thought and Leadership Lucian Spataro has been named the interim director for the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU. Download Full Image

“Now that Lucian is with our center and school at ASU, he is leading our efforts to forge a new national coalition of the varied views in the civics education space — in order to emphasize that, while we may differ on means and on the precise priority among shared goals, we share the crucial goal to improve the quality of and priority for citizenship education,” said Paul Carrese, director for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, which is where the the center is housed. 

Previously, Spataro served as the CEO of the Joe Foss Institute, where for seven years he led the Scottsdale-based nonprofit's efforts to increase the priority for civics in schools. In that time, Spataro and the Joe Foss Institute worked side-by-side with legislators in more than 30 states — including Arizona — to craft legislation requiring high school students  to pass the same test required of new citizens of the United States. 

Spataro worked closely with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to help craft the state’s civic education legislation, named the American Civics Act, which was passed in January 2015. Arizona became the first state to enact such legislation, and the bill would become a model for other states around the country. 

“As a direct result of the work that Lucian has done in America and nationally to advance civics education, millions of students are becoming informed and engaged citizens,” Ducey said. 

Carrese added, “A basic floor of civic knowledge should be expected of all American citizens; from this basis, more complex curricula can be developed nationally and in each state. This idea has revolutionized the debate about civics education in America in just a few years.” 

The Joe Foss Institute also established its Veterans Inspiring Patriotism program, where veterans from around the country would visit public schools to discuss their experiences in the armed forces. The goal was not to recruit students into the military, but to have a discussion of civic duty and patriotism. 

“My role at the Center for Political Thought and Leadership is an opportunity to continue our work and build on earlier efforts to bring attention to the civics crisis and ensure that the principles of our republic — and the founding framework that allows America to flourish — are not forgotten and lost,” Spataro said. “Ultimately, we are working to position civics back on the front burner as an important and equally emphasized discipline. One that is taught, tested and properly funded, so our students graduate as informed, engaged and responsible citizens.”

The Joe Foss Institute merged into the Center for Political Thought and Leadership in November 2019 as part of a collaboration agreement. The Joe Foss Institute's civic education initiatives, as well as its Veterans Inspiring Patriotism program, have continued under the ASU Center for Political Thought and Leadership in collaboration with the faculty and staff of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. 

Spataro, who graduated from the University of Arizona and completed a master’s degree and PhD from Ohio University, was also recently named a Medal of Merit recipient from his alma mater. Ohio University awards the medal to alumni who have achieved distinction in their fields. 

“(Lucian’s) efforts in bringing the important discipline of civics education back to the forefront of our classrooms has made great strides towards solving the ‘quiet crisis’ that undermines the future of our nation,” Ducey said. “Lucian’s accomplishments have bettered the future for both the state of Arizona and America.” 

Director, Communications, Phoenix Bioscience Core

image title

The costs and benefits of occupational licensing

Occupational licensing can be a barrier to employment and worker mobility.
Those in licensed occupations work ~3%+ than those in nonlicensed occupations.
September 24, 2020

ASU webinar explores the future of requirements for licenses to perform different jobs

Vocations as diverse as hairstyling and law are affected by occupational licensing, the requirement for an oft-coveted credential awarded by government agencies that gives someone the legal authority to do a specific job.

But when it comes to the wheels of labor market efficiency, is occupational licensing grease or sand?

University of Minnesota Professor Morris Kleiner leans toward the latter, especially in the wake of a pandemic that is sending droves of people looking for work outside of their specialty – and geographical – areas.

“It seems to throw a lot of sand into the machinery of the labor market. So it seems to reduce efficiency,” he said Wednesday afternoon during a webinar hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty.

The second of the center’s Perspectives on Economic Liberty series of public lectures, it was moderated by center Director Ross Emmett and included a presentation by Senior Research Fellow Stephen Slivinski, who called Kleiner the “godfather” of the field.

Over the course of an hour, Kleiner touched on the basics of occupational licensing, its efficiency in the labor market and how COVID-19 has affected it so far and how it may affect it in the future.

The number of workers required to obtain occupational licensing has grown dramatically since the 1950s, when they made up only 4–5% of the U.S. workforce. Today, it’s more like 1 in 5 workers.

And while occupational licensing was put into practice in the interest of public health and safety, it has a negative affect on the ability of workers to switch occupations, or even move across state lines. A graph Kleiner shared showed the rate of interstate migration began significantly decreasing during the 1970s as occupational licensing was becoming more common.

Referencing the line from The Eagles’ song “Hotel California” — “You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave” — Kleiner said, “That’s also true of a licensed occupation; people rarely leave them.”

In research of Kleiner’s, he looked at data from a recent population survey and found that hourly wages for licensed occupations were about 15% higher than those not in licensed occupations, however, those in licensed occupations worked about 3% – or about 1.4 hours – more per week than those in nonlicensed occupations.

He also found that in some cases, occupational licensing was actually a barrier to employment because of the cost associated with required exams or education.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has seen a relaxation in occupational licensing policies, particularly when it comes to health care professions.

Slivinski shared that before COVID-19, there had been some occasional forays into lowering the overall barriers to occupational licensing in the form of lower fees and training requirements, and a few states even signed into law “universal licensing,” wherein a license obtained in one state would be accepted in another.

“We were beginning to see governors noticing that these barriers were actually counterproductive in trying to get doctors and health care professionals to the frontlines of COVID-19,” Slivinski said.

“What’s interesting,” he added, “is that these (relaxations) were mainly put into place through executive orders or emergency order. They have expiration dates.”

In the coming years, both Slivinski and Kleiner hope we can learn from the positive outcomes that came about when barriers to occupational licensing were taken down, especially as more people begin to work remotely and migrate across states for work as a result of the pandemic.

“Population migration is something to keep an eye on,” Slivinski said. “We will probably see a lot more of it because the reality is the pandemic has not influenced each state’s economy in the same way; some will recover more slowly and some will recover more quickly. … States that have the most open licensing laws or the absence of them can reap the gains.”

In response to an audience question about how permanently relaxing occupational licensing laws might affect public health and safety, Kleiner pointed out that there are plenty of professions that don’t require occupational licensing, such as car salesmen and professors, whose services we never question and trust implicitly. However, he added, if that is a concern, there are plenty of alternatives to requiring licensing, such as using services like Angie's List that vet workers or filing a lawsuit, if it comes to that.

“I’m not saying every occupation should be deregulated, but each occupation should be evaluated on its own costs and benefits,” he said.

Slivinski added, that there is no statistical difference in health and safety quality outcomes between states that require occupational licensing for certain professions and those that don’t.

On Thursday, Oct. 8, Slivinski will present the center’s Doing Business North America report, for which he serves as director.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

International religious leader Rabbi Jonathan Sacks presents a vision of hope for the future during virtual event

ASU-moderated discussion centered around 'Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times'

September 17, 2020

International religious leader, philosopher and award-winning author Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke to more than 430 people from 13 countries in a virtual discussion on Sept. 10, centered around his latest book, "Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times."

The inaugural event for “Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES)” for the John Templeton Foundation was moderated by Pauline Davies, Professor of Practice at Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, with an additional discussion led by John Carlson, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict; Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership; Paul Davies, director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Sciences; and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, director of the Center for Jewish Studies Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

"Morality" explores moral philosophy, public discourse and the elevation of self-interest over the common good. As communities around the world have experienced in the past six months of COVID-19, bringing people together for the common good proves to be more challenging than ever. 

This timely discussion revolved around the cultural and political forces that have divided Britain, America and the wider world, and Sacks’ sincere wish that people develop a "we" versus an "I" mentality.

“We are collectively responsible for the creation of a society that will benefit the common good — benefit those, who right now are least benefiting from it," Sacks said. "That was always a part of British and American society from the 17th century, maybe even earlier, until the 1950s. Somehow we became so affluent, the world around us seemed so relatively free of threats to our peace and security that we didn’t notice as this entire moral domain became fragmented.

"So that instead of thinking about what’s good for all of us, we focused on what’s good for me. I suggested that society can’t carry on like that. We do need to be held together in bonds of mutual responsibility because without it, we will indeed fragment.” 

“I really enjoyed listening to Rabbi Sacks’ webinar,” said Kaitlyn Skamas, a first-year student in the College of Integrative Arts and Sciences. “I thought the talk was going to solely be about Judaism, but to my surprise, he was very inclusive and encouraged the concept of ‘creating friendships through faith.’”

“The biggest takeaway for me was just how truly thirsty our communities are for a civil discussion among people who may disagree about many important things, yet are sincerely interested in healing the rifts in Western society,” said Professor Barry Ritchie from ASU's Department of Physics and the director of CORES. “This honest and yet respectful discussion was a model for the destination we need to seek for discussions within the university and within society.” 


You can watch the full conversation with Rabbi Sacks on YouTube

The CORES project is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Arizona Center for Christian Studies, with a subcontract to Arizona State University.

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Thriving in a pandemic

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership faculty, students adapt easily to new learning modalities

September 9, 2020

Students at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University may have entered the school year unsure of what their classrooms would be like, but they quickly realized that their CEL classes would offer not only an environment in which to learn but a place to interact with their peers — albeit slightly more distanced than in years past. 

After a few weeks of a combination of in-person and ASU Sync courses, there is a common theme amongst students and professors: There are challenges, but people are adapting.  Assistant Professor Theresa Smart teaching CEL 100. Download Full Image

“It’s definitely been different than what I was expecting,” said Flannery S., a first-year student and CEL major from Colorado, about her first week. “There’s a lot more time spent in my dorm room. ... A majority of my classes are on Zoom. This is actually one of the classes that I do leave and get to go meet people, so I’ve been enjoying that.” 

Gwyneth C., a first-year student and CEL major from Washington, is taking her first CEL class with Professor Theresa Smart. “... It’s my favorite class. I love the discussions we have. … I was a little nervous about discussion-based classes, but it’s awesome. They are so much fun, so interactive and I feel like I get a lot out of this class — more than a lecture,” said Gwyneth.  

Adam Seagrave, associate professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, found that though there were some technological challenges during the first class, the transition to ASU Sync has gone really well.

“Something that we always emphasize in our courses … in the school is discussion-based learning. We’ve been able to do that despite the dislocation of having some students remote and some in person,” said Seagrave. 

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership offers two undergraduate degrees, a minor and recently launched a new master's degree program. Almost all of its classrooms revolve around the Socratic teaching method, which encourages interaction between the students as well as the faculty, Seagrave said. 

“The word of the day has been flexibility, and we’ve been flexible,” Seagrave said. “We’ve adapted.”

Learn more about the school and its programs. 

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership