“‘Ban the Box’ Does More Harm than Good,” an op-ed by Jennifer L. Doleac and published by the Brookings Institution, says that the policy that’s supposed to help ex-offenders find jobs doesn’t really help many. It actually winds up hurting the employment chances for Black and Hispanic men who don’t have criminal records.
Doleac reports that Black men born in 2001 have a 32 percent chance of imprisonment, Hispanic men have a 17 percent chance, and White men have only a 6 percent chance. Employers often assume, therefore, that Black and Hispanic men have a greater chance of having been in prison and, as a result, are probably less job-ready.
Ex-offenders have it tough because it is difficult for those with criminal records to find jobs. Most employers won’t even give ex-offenders an opportunity for an interview, let alone accept their applications, according to the article.
Doleac reports that two researchers, Amanda Agan and Sonja Starr, wanted to study how “ban the box” would affect job applicants’ chances. They sent thousands of fake job applications to employers in New Jersey and New York City, where “ban the box” is in effect. Though employers call White applicants slightly more often than Black applicants when criminal records have been disclosed, that gap becomes four times larger when “ban the box” is in effect. That bigger gap is an unintended side effect of the policy.
Stated another way, the unintended side effect is that the people who gained the most from “ban the box” were White applicants with criminal records.
In a different study, Doleac reports, she and Benjamin Hansen measured the effects of “ban the box” on young, low-skilled men across the country. Their results showed that Black and Hispanic men who did not have college degrees were employed significantly less under “ban the box” than before.
Doleac ends by suggesting that because “ban the box” has had such counterproductive consequences, concentrating efforts on helping disadvantaged ex-offenders improve their job readiness would be more effective and most helpful to ex-offenders.