'Ban the Box' Policies and Criminal Recidivism

92 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2020

See all articles by Ryan Sherrard

Ryan Sherrard

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 6, 2020


Employment has long been seen as a mechanism for reducing criminal recidivism. As such, many states and municipalities have tried to increase the employment prospects of ex-offenders through "Ban the Box" (BTB) policies, making it illegal to ask about an individual's criminal history on a job application. There are, however, questions as to how effective these policies are at helping ex-offenders successfully stay out of prison. In addition, recent research has shown that BTB policies may lead employers to racially discriminate in hiring. Using administrative prison data, this paper examines the direct effect of BTB policies on rates of criminal recidivism. I find that while BTB policies don't appear to reduce criminal recidivism overall, these policies may be exacerbating racial disparities. In particular, I show that being released into a labor market with a BTB policy is associated with higher rates of recidivism for black ex-offenders, with little to no effect for white ex-offenders. This result is robust to a number of specifications and sub-samples.

Keywords: Ban the Box, Crime, Crime Economics, Recidivism

JEL Classification: K42, J71

Suggested Citation

Sherrard, Ryan, 'Ban the Box' Policies and Criminal Recidivism (January 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3515048 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3515048

Ryan Sherrard (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Economics

Santa Barbara, CA

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