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The 150-hour rule as a barrier to entering public accountancy

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In many states, CPA licensure now requires 150 credit hours of college coursework thereby adding an extra semester or year of schooling beyond typical undergraduate degree requirements. Thus, the “150-hour rule” should increase the cost of becoming a CPA and, consequently, reduce the supply of new CPAs. We test this hypothesis using panel data on the number of first-time candidates for the CPA exam in each state over the years 1985 to 2002. We find that the imposition of the 150-hour education requirement reduces the number of candidates sitting for the CPA exam by 60 percent and that the “grandfathering” provisions of the 150-hour rule produce a substantial transitory increase in the number of candidates sitting for the exam in the year prior to the rule’s effective date. Examination of candidates’ pass rates on the exam also finds behavior consistent with the hypothesis that the 150-hour rule is a barrier to entry.

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We thank Wilson Mixon and particular the 2002 Western Economics Association and 2002 Southern Economisc Association meetings for helpful comments. We also thank Ian Elkin, Steven Simms, and especially, Keri Anderson for extraordinarily diligent ressearch assistance.

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Carpenter, C.G., Stephenson, E.F. The 150-hour rule as a barrier to entering public accountancy. J Labor Res 27, 115–126 (2006).

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