Criminal Background and Job Performance

31 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2016 Last revised: 1 Nov 2016

Date Written: October 30, 2016

Abstract

Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to obtain legitimate employment, a problem that recent legislation, including Ban the Box, has attempted to address. The success of any remedial strategy depends on why hiring firms impose a hiring penalty and whether their concerns are founded on an accurate view of how ex-offenders behave on the job if hired. Little empirical evidence now exists to answer these questions. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining firm-level hiring practices and worker-level performance outcomes. Our data indicate that the typical employee with a criminal record has a psychological profile different from other employees, with fewer characteristics that are associated with good job performance outcomes. Despite these differences, individuals with criminal records have an involuntary separation rate that is no higher than that of other employees and a voluntary separation rate that is much lower. Employees with a criminal record do have a slightly higher overall rate of discharge for misconduct than do employees without a record, although we find increased misconduct only for sales positions. We also find that firms that do not use information about criminal backgrounds seem to compensate by placing more weight on qualifications that are correlated with a criminal record, such as low educational attainment.

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 (October 30, 2016). 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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