Pre-Employ Blog

Does "Ban the Box" Discriminate against Minorities?

Posted by Bob Mather on January 03, 2017

On the surface, withholding criminal history information from employers until late in the interview stage would seem to help African American and Hispanic men gain employment, but a recent study by The National Center of Economic Research claims just the opposite. 

Researchers analyzed individual-level data from the monthly U.S. Current Population Survey from 2004 to 2014 to explore the impact of state and local BTB policies on the probability of employment for black and Hispanic men aged 25-34 without college degrees. Using variation in when different jurisdictions adopted BTB laws to measure employment effects, they conclude that BTB legislation reduced the probability of employment by 5.1 percent among black men and 2.9 percent among Hispanic men.

The size of the BTB effect was smaller in areas of the country where these groups constituted a larger share of the population (the South for blacks, the West for Hispanics), and larger elsewhere. BTB reduced black men's employment probabilities by 7.4 percent in the Northeast, 7.5 percent in the Midwest, and 8.8 percent in the West; similar, albeit lesser, effects were seen for Hispanic men in the Northeast, Midwest, and South.

Ban the Box chart showing decreased employment of young, low-skilled black men

"These results suggest that the larger the black or Hispanic population, the less likely employers are to use race/ethnicity as a proxy for criminality," the researchers write. The effect also increased when unemployment rates were high. Employment probabilities increased significantly under BTB for highly educated black women and for older, low-skilled black men. Positive but statistically insignificant effects were also seen for whites.

These results are consistent with numerous other studies that have examined the effects of limiting employers' information about employees. "Policymakers cannot simply wish away employers' concerns about hiring those with criminal records," the researchers conclude. "Policies that directly address those concerns—for instance, by providing more information about job applicants with records, or improving the average ex-offender's job-readiness—could have greater benefits without the unintended consequences found here."

This debate continues to sweep across America (see Texas Attempts to Limit "Ban the Box" Legislation) or download The Employer's Guide to "Ban the Box" Legislation.

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Topics: Ban the Box, FCRA, Discrimination