Legal Mandates in Criminal Background Checks: An Evaluation of Disparate Impact in New York State
45 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 14, 2017
This paper presents a stylized model of “disparate impact”, showing that background check decisions could create unequal opportunities for minorities since minorities are more likely to have certain types of criminal records. We evaluate a state mandated criminal background check for employment, implemented by the New York State Department of Health (DOH). The DOH process follows a statute that determines certain crimes as automatically disqualifying from and certain others as automatically approving of employment. We show that adding these legal mandates to a statistically optimal approach which considers all factors of a conviction record, does not add any predictive power to decision-making but inadvertently leads to a disparate impact on minorities. The paper concludes that over-reliance on such mandates generates inefficient and inequitable outcomes.
Keywords: Criminal Background Checks, Employment, Disparate Impact, NYS Executive Law
JEL Classification: J48, J60, K31, K40
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