Ban the box backfires

“Ban the Box” laws prevent employers from conducting criminal background checks until well into the job application process. (“Ban the Box” comes from the check box on many job applications asking, “Have you every been convicted of a crime?”)

Proponents of “Ban the Box” claim that by ignoring an applicant’s criminal record until late in the application process, ex-cons would have better employment opportunities.

A secondary goal is to reduce racial disparities in employment.

New research suggests that “Ban the Box” has backfired.

We find that [Ban the Box] policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.

Source: NBER