NELP Argues Studies Critical of Ban the Box Reach Wrong Conclusion

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has released a policy brief – Racial Profiling in Hiring: A Critique of New “Ban the Box” Studies – critical of two studies that claim Ban the Box policies meant to help applicants with criminal records find work could do “more harm than good” by unintentionally harming minority job seekers. NELP believes these Ban the Box studies reach “the wrong conclusion.”

According to the Ban the Box policy brief from NELP: 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 policy brief written by Maurice Emsellem and Beth Avery argues that Ban the Box 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.” In reviewing these Ban the Box studies, NELP concludes:

  • 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.”
  • Ban the Box is working, both by increasing employment opportunities for people with records and by changing employer attitudes toward hiring people with records.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The policy brief from NELP describes Ban the Box in the following manner: “Ban the box”—the policy reform typically associated with delaying background check inquiries—was not intended as the silver bullet to a racially biased criminal justice system.  The rallying cry of ban-the-box raised consciousness; it elevated the plight of millions of people struggling to gain a foothold because of a past record. 

NELP concludes that “the studies focus their criticism on the Ban the Box policy—not the racism that the policy exposes.” The policy brief about the Ban the Box studies from NELP, a national advocacy organization for employment rights of lower-wage workers, is available for download at www.nelp.org/publication/racial-profiling-in-hiring-a-critique-of-new-ban-the-box-studies/.

According to NELP, an estimated 70 million people in the United States – or nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults – have a prior arrest or conviction record. The Ban the Box movement is spreading fast with 24 states and more than 100 cities and counties have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with records. Learn more at www.nelp.org/campaign/ensuring-fair-chance-to-work/.

As reported earlier by ESR News, a study issued in July 2016 – Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden – claimed Ban the Box policies decreased the probability of being employed by 5.1 percent for young, low-skilled African-American men, and by 2.9 percent for young, low-skilled Hispanic men.

ESR News also reported that study released in June 2016 – Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment – found that white job applicants were four times more likely to receive a call back from an employer for employment than black job applicants after Ban the Box policies were implemented, compared to only slightly more likely before any Ban the Box policy.

More Information about Ban the Box from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a global provider of fast, accurate, affordable, and compliant background checks – offers a Ban the Box Information for employers that contains links to news and legislative updates concerning Ban the Box in States, in Cities and Counties, and Resources. To learn more about background check solutions from ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com.

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