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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Research on Ban the Box (BTB) policies issued in July 2016 suggests that jurisdictions in the United States that adopted Ban the Box policies preventing employers from conducting criminal background checks until late in the hiring process to improve employment opportunities for job seekers with criminal records and reduce racial disparities in the workforce may unintentionally harm minority applicants.

The joint study – Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden – conducted by Jennifer L. Doleac, of the Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy at University of Virginia, and Benjamin Hansen, of the Department of Economics at the University of Oregon, uncovered some negative effects of Ban the Box.

We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.

While Ban the Box is meant to help minority job seekers, the study found “removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and avoid interviewing them. In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable.”

The results of the Ban the Box study did not surprise Doleac. “I’ve done work on discrimination in the past and the first thing that jumped into my mind when I heard about ‘ban the box’ was, ‘This is going to backfire. This is just going to result in statistical discrimination against groups that are more likely to have criminal records,’” she was quoted as saying in an article on the University of Virginia website.

According to the article, the Ban the Box study highlights the unintended negative consequences of policies limiting access to backgrounds of applicants by employers. “Basically, what we know about the impact of these types of laws is that providing more information about job applicants increases hiring of racial minorities, and taking information away decreases employment for those groups,” Doleac said.

The study on Ban the Box policies issued in July 2016 – Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden” (NBER Working Paper No. 22469) – by Jennifer L. Doleac and Benjamin Hansen is available on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) website at

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that 70 million people in the United States – or nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults – have a prior arrest or conviction record. Currently, 24 states and over 100 cities and counties have Ban the Box policies to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with criminal records. To learn more, visit

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, Ban the Box Cities & Counties, and Ban the Box Resources. To learn more about background check solutions from ESR, please visit

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2016 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.


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