Study: Job applications without criminal history questions help increase hiring of former prisoners

Case Western Reserve University

Newswise — Efforts to ban such questions show promise to ease re-entry into workforce for increasing number of Americans with criminal histories

Former prisoners have a better chance of getting hired if a job application doesn’t include questions about criminal history, according to new employment research from Case Western Reserve University. 

In fact, the practice known as “banning the box” (as in, the box job applicants are asked to check to indicate criminal convictions) increased employment of residents in high-crime U.S. neighborhoods by up to 4 percent, the study reported.

The finding has significant criminal justice and economic implications: Previous research has shown that employment significantly reduces repeat offenses and helps former prisoners establish secure housing, health insurance and other basic necessities—all of which contributes to a community’s safety and stability.

“The hundreds of thousands of individuals who reenter society—and our economy—every year are a significant potential resource that is unrepresented in our workforce,” said Daniel Shoag, a visiting associate professor of economics at the university’s Weatherhead School of Management.

“In all likelihood, questions like ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime?’ scare away some applicants who have much to offer,” said Shoag. “At the same time, potential employers likely dismiss the prospects of anyone with a conviction, regardless of their skills or education.”

The study’s results were not all positive, though: Women—especially African-American women, who are less likely to have been convicted of crimes than black males—were hired less often in communities that “banned the box”; it’s likely an increase in the hiring of black men came at the detriment of black women, according to the research.

Other findings include:

  • Employment increases in communities that “banned the box” were particularly large in the public sector and in lower-wage jobs;
  • Positive employment effects were seen across multiple income and skill levels, as well as in urban and suburban areas;
  • “Banning the box” promoted what’s known as “upskilling”—increases in education and experience requirements—as employers substitute criminal-background questions for others to determine an applicant’s qualifications;
  • Employers stemmed a decades-long rise in the number of background checks.

Shoag co-authored the research with Stan Veuger, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

As of 2018, 33 U.S. states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted a ban-the-box or equivalent policy for public sector jobs, according to the National Employment Law Project; laws in 11 states and 17 cities require the same practice by private employers.

Many “ban-the-box” rules allow employers to do criminal-background checks later in the application process. The researchers contend this delay is better than a full-fledged ban, which may lead some employers to avoid taking any risk and result in discrimination: African-Americans and Hispanics represent a much larger share of arrestees and convicts than their share of the U.S. population.

The research comes from a chapter Shoag and Veuger co-authored in Education for Liberation, a new volume focusing on bi-partisan strategies for prison reform, featuring a forward by conservative politician Newt Gingrich and progressive pundit Van Jones.

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 6046
access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 26-Jul-2021 12:15 AM EDT Released to reporters: 22-Jul-2021 8:00 AM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 26-Jul-2021 12:15 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 20-Jul-2021 4:30 PM EDT
Small-Scale Worker Resistance Impacts Food Delivery Economy in China
Cornell University

Research from Cornell University has revealed a new form of bargaining power among Chinese platform-based food delivery workers, who conduct invisible mini-strikes by logging out of apps and airing grievances over.

Released: 15-Jul-2021 1:10 PM EDT
Even on Facebook, COVID-19 Polarized Members of U.S. Congress
Ohio State University

Facebook posts by members of the U.S. Congress reveal the depth of the partisan divide over the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

Released: 13-Jul-2021 5:05 PM EDT
Patients in Michigan Gain Increased Access to Affordable, Quality Anesthesia Care
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)

Michigan patients now have increased access to safe, affordable care with the signing of HB 4359 by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The law removes supervision requirements for nurse anesthetists and grants them the authority to collaboratively participate in a patient-centered healthcare team.

Released: 13-Jul-2021 4:30 PM EDT
US citizen migrant children in Mexico lacking adequate health insurance
University of Houston

While attending a conference at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City several years ago, Sharon Borja was struck by the story of a young man who, as a child, joined his parents repatriating to their native country of Mexico.

Newswise: California Makes Historic Investment in HSU’s Polytechnic Plans
Released: 13-Jul-2021 3:25 PM EDT
California Makes Historic Investment in HSU’s Polytechnic Plans
Humboldt State University

California Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature have agreed on a new state budget with a historic $458 million investment in Humboldt State University’s effort to become Northern California’s first polytechnic institution.

Newswise: Allocating COVID-19 vaccines based on health and socioeconomic factors could reduce mortality
8-Jul-2021 11:30 AM EDT
Allocating COVID-19 vaccines based on health and socioeconomic factors could reduce mortality

Study suggests spatial relationship between COVID-19 mortality and population-level health factors.

Showing results

110 of 6046