Legal Mandates in Criminal Background Checks: An Evaluation of Disparate Impact in New York State

45 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017  

Garima Siwach

American Institutes for Research; Department of Economics, University at Albany, SUNY

Shawn D. Bushway

University at Albany

Megan Kurlychek

State University of New York

Date Written: June 14, 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Siwach, Garima and Bushway, Shawn D. and Kurlychek, Megan, Legal Mandates in Criminal Background Checks: An Evaluation of Disparate Impact in New York State (June 14, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2986384 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2986384

Garima Siwach (Contact Author)

American Institutes for Research ( email )

1990 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-1107
United States

Department of Economics, University at Albany, SUNY ( email )

1400 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12222
United States

Shawn D. Bushway

University at Albany ( email )

324 Milne Hall
Albany, NY 12222
United States

Megan Kurlychek

State University of New York ( email )

1400 Washington Avenue
Building, Room 109
Albany, NY 12222
United States

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