The Unintended Consequences of 'Ban the Box': Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden

64 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2016 Last revised: 22 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jennifer L. Doleac

Jennifer L. Doleac

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA

Date Written: August 1, 2018

Abstract

Jurisdictions across the United States have adopted “ban the box” (BTB) policies preventing employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal records until late in the hiring process. Their goal is to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment. However, removing criminal history information could increase statistical discrimination against demographic groups that include more ex-offenders. We use variation in the timing of BTB policies to test BTB’s effects on employment. We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of employment by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men.

Keywords: Ban the Box, Discrimination, Employment, Race, Criminal Records

JEL Classification: J71, J78, K4

Suggested Citation

Doleac, Jennifer L. and Hansen, Benjamin, The Unintended Consequences of 'Ban the Box': Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden (August 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2812811 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2812811

Jennifer L. Doleac (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics ( email )

5201 University Blvd.
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jenniferdoleac.com/

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

1285 University of ORegon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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