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Criminal Background and Job Performance

45 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 29 Jun 2017

Date Written: May 4, 2017

Abstract

Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to obtain legitimate employment. Recent efforts to address this problem include both efforts to persuade employers voluntarily to hire ex-offenders and legislation, including Ban the Box laws. The success of any remedial strategy depends on whether employer concerns are founded on an accurate view of how ex-offenders behave on the job if hired. Little empirical evidence now exists to answer this question. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining firm-level hiring practices and worker-level performance outcomes. Our data indicate that individuals with criminal records have a much longer tenure and are less likely to quit their jobs voluntarily than other workers. Some results, however, differ by job: customer service employees with a criminal record are no more likely than others to leave for reasons of misconduct, but sales people are. We find some evidence that psychometric testing might provide a substitute for the use of criminal records, but that it would not in our own sample. This complex pattern suggests the need for expanding the public policy menu beyond Ban the Box to include incentives to encourage employers to look more closely at their workforces to identify where the true risk groups are.

Keywords: criminal records, discrimination, Ban the Box, personnel economics, job performance

JEL Classification: K14, J24, J78

Suggested Citation

Minor, Dylan and Persico, Nicola and Weiss, Deborah M., Criminal Background and Job Performance (May 4, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2851951

Dylan Minor

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Nicola Persico

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Deborah M. Weiss (Contact Author)

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

600 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
United States

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