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Credit Reports as Résumés: The Incidence of Pre-Employment Credit Screening

49 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2016 Last revised: 16 Jan 2017

Alexander Wickman Bartik

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students

Scott Nelson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: March 7, 2016

Abstract

We study recent bans on employers' use of credit reports to screen job applicants – a practice that has been popular among employers, but controversial for its perceived disparate impact on racial minorities. Exploiting geographic, temporal, and job-level variation in which workers are covered by these bans, we analyze these bans' effects in two datasets: the panel dimension of the Current Population Survey (CPS); and data aggregated from state unemployment insurance records. We find that the bans reduced job-finding rates for blacks by 7 to 16 log points, and increased subsequent separation rates for black new hires by 3 percentage points, arguably contrary to the bans' intended effects. Results for Hispanics and whites are less conclusive. We interpret these findings in a statistical discrimination model in which credit report data, more so for blacks than for other groups, send a high-precision signal relative to the precision of employers' priors.

Keywords: Unemployment, Employment Discrimination, Signaling, Hiring, Firing, Policy Analysis

JEL Classification: J680, J780, M510, J630, D040, D820

Suggested Citation

Bartik, Alexander Wickman and Nelson, Scott, Credit Reports as Résumés: The Incidence of Pre-Employment Credit Screening (March 7, 2016). MIT Department of Economics Graduate Student Research Paper 16-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2759560

Alexander Wickman Bartik (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://economics.mit.edu/grad/abartik

Scott Nelson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Bldg E52
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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