Criminal Background and Job Performance

Minor, Persico, & Weiss. IZA Journal of Labor Policy (2018) 7:8

49 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021

Date Written: September 4, 2018


Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to obtain legitimate employment. Recent efforts to address this problem include campaigns to persuade employers to hire ex-offenders voluntarily and legislation such as 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 may be no more likely than others to leave for reasons of misconduct, but sales employees are. By examining psychometric data, we find evidence that bad outcomes for sales people with records may be driven by job rather than employee characteristics. 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.

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 (September 4, 2018). Minor, Persico, & Weiss. IZA Journal of Labor Policy (2018) 7:8, Available at SSRN: or

Dylan Minor

Anderson School of Management (UCLA) ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
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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