America the Beautiful: Regulations Help Newcomers “Makeup” the Cosmetology Industry

Written by Data USA

Published on October 13, 2016

Hollywood may boast the nation's highest-priced beauty salons, but the best-coiffed Americans may actually live on the East Coast—specifically, in New York and Maryland.
Well, OK, full disclosure: There was no panel of judges or sealed envelope. But according to US Census data, New York and Maryland employ more people in the beauty industry given the size of their overall labor pool and the industry's size as a whole for the nation. The top locations with a relatively high concentration of employees in beauty salons are the Flushing area of New York's Queens borough (with a revealed comparative advantage (RCA) of 5.4), Wheaton, MD (RCA of 3.3), and the Bronx borough of New York (RCA of 3.2).
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New York's large number of beauty practitioners is perhaps little surprise given its dense population: Someone needs to cut the hair of all those New Yorkers, after all! Maryland is much less densely populated, so clearly other factors may be at play.
One of the factors elevating Wheaton's concentration of stylists may be cosmetology schools. Wheaton has a high relative number of beauty school attendees. In fact, Data USA's profile of Cosmetology and Personal Grooming Services degrees shows Wheaton and Queens among the nation's top 100 counties for cosmetology graduates.1
But there's a second factor that—in combination with a good supply of cosmetology grads—makes Queens and Wheaton special. Both areas also have relatively high immigrant populations. Only 72 percent of Queens residents, and 77.9 percent of Wheaton residents, are American citizens. Cosmetology specifically offers immigrants a potentially transferable skill and living that transcends many language barriers and stiff legal regulations.2 For example, New York's licensing requirements for beauty services are comparatively lenient; the state does not require practitioners to be American citizens, and it honors licenses from other countries and states.3 New York also has low licensing and renewal fees, as well as special reciprocity arrangements with other states.4 Maryland, too, is friendly to the industry: It permits practitioners to be licensed in multiple states at once and approves apprenticeships in lieu of cosmetology school training.5
Queens, Wheaton, and the Bronx also share proximity to major metropolitan areas. Maryland and New York's cross-state licensing reciprocity can make it easy for beauty practitioners there to service clients from more densely populated and higher-priced areas while enjoying lower operating costs and cost-of-living expenses themselves.
All of which means that, as you walk the streets of Flushing or Wheaton, you're likely to find good ethnic food—and you'll likely have no trouble finding a place for a haircut.
  2. Patrick McGreevy, "'A way for me to come out of hiding': Immigrants in U.S. illegally are given a shot to return to their professions," Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2016,
  3. New York Division of Licensing, "FAQ: Cosmetology,", accessed August 1, 2016.
  4. Beauty Schools Directory, "Cosmetology licensing laws, rules & regulations,", accessed August 1, 2016.
  5. Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, "License requirements: Maryland Board of Cosmetologists,", accessed August 1, 2016.
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