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“Ban-the-Box” versus Alternative Screens

Summary:
The “ban the box” (BTB) policies limiting an employer's ability to learn about job applicants’ criminal records are intended to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment. However, since employees with a criminal record tend to have more workplace problems, it is valuable to employers to develop other screens to weed out these applicants. One possible screen is to reducing hiring among the demographic groups that include more ex-offenders.In "The Unintended Consequences of “Ban the Box”: Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden," Doleac and Hansen recently investigated this issue by examining the outcomes in about one hundred jurisdictions enacting these

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The “ban the box” (BTB) policies limiting an employer's ability to learn about job applicants’ criminal records are intended to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment. However, since employees with a criminal record tend to have more workplace problems, it is valuable to employers to develop other screens to weed out these applicants. One possible screen is to reducing hiring among the demographic groups that include more ex-offenders.

In "The Unintended Consequences of “Ban the Box”: Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden," Doleac and Hansen recently investigated this issue by examining the outcomes in about one hundred jurisdictions enacting these policies over the 2004-2014 period.

We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of employment by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men.

The term for this is "statistical discrimination" because you need not dislike the young, the low-skilled or black men to discriminate against them. They need only be statistically related to the characteristic you want to screen out. The irony of a policy harming a group it was intended to help would be humorous if it weren't so tragic.

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