Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment*

“Ban the Box” policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records

Amanda Agan; Sonja Starr

2017

Scholarcy highlights

  • “Ban the Box” policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records
  • Withholding information about criminal records could risk encouraging racial discrimination: employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant's race
  • We confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment: employers that asked about criminal records were 63% more likely to call applicants with no record
  • Our results support the concern that BTB policies encourage racial discrimination: the black-white gap in callbacks grew dramatically at companies that removed the box after the policy went into effect
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