Racial Profiling in Hiring: A Critique of New “Ban the Box” Studies

Source: Maurice Emsellem, Beth Avery, Policy Brief, August 11, 2016

From the summary:
Two recent studies claim that “ban the box” policies enacted around the country detrimentally affect the employment of young men of color who do not have a conviction record. One of the authors has boldly argued that the policy should be abandoned outright because it “does more harm than good.” It’s the wrong conclusion. The nation cannot afford to turn back the clock on a decade of reform that has created significant job opportunities for people with records. These studies require exacting scrutiny to ensure that they are not irresponsibly seized upon at a critical time when the nation is being challenged to confront its painful legacy of structural discrimination and criminalization of people of color.

Our review of the studies leads us to these top-line conclusions: (1) The core problem raised by the studies is not ban-the-box but entrenched racism in the hiring process, which manifests as racial profiling of African Americans as “criminals.” (2) Ban-the-box is working, both by increasing employment opportunities for people with records and by changing employer attitudes toward hiring people with records. (3) When closely scrutinized, the new studies do not support the conclusion that ban-the-box policies are responsible for the depressed hiring of African Americans. (4) The studies highlight the need for a more robust policy response to both boost job opportunities for people with records and tackle race discrimination in the hiring process—not a repeal of ban-the-box laws. ….

…..In recent months, two studies evaluating the impact of ban-the-box policies have been released—both making the controversial claim that the policies have a detrimental impact on young African-American men. One of the researchers concludes that the policy should be abandoned because it “does more harm than good.” The two studies at issue were authored by Amanda Agan and Sonja Starr (“Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment”) and Jennifer Doleac and Benjamin Hansen (“Does Ban the Box Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Records Are Hidden”).4 A third recently released study by Daniel Shoag and Stan Veuger (“No Woman, No Crime: Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling”) presents a range of findings on the impact of ban-the-box policies in geographic areas with high crime rates…..
Related:
Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment
Source: Amanda Agan & Sonja Starr, University of Michigan Law & Economics Research Paper, No. 16-012, June 14, 2016

Does Ban the Box Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Records Are Hidden
Source: Jennifer Doleac & Benjamin Hansen, July 2016

No Woman, No Crime: Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling
Source: Daniel Shoag & Stan Veuger, American Enterprise Institute, AEI Economics Working Paper, 2016-08, May 25, 2016