Criminal Background and Job Performance
45 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 29 Jun 2017
Date Written: May 4, 2017
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: Suggested Citation