A new research study released this month by Case Western Reserve University reports the “Ban the Box” movement has improved employment opportunities for former prisoners.

The Ban the Box practice, allowing the removal of the application box potential employees are asked to check to indicate criminal convictions, is now being utilized in 33 states and more than 150 cities across the U.S.

Numbers in the new university study show Ban the Box has increased employment of residents in high-crime U.S. neighborhoods by up to 4 percent.

The new findings are a plus for criminal justice and the economy, with previous research revealing employment significantly reduces repeat offenses and helps former prisoners establish secure housing and health insurance.

“The hundreds of thousands of individuals who reenter society—and our economy—every year are a significant potential resource that is unrepresented in our workforce,” said Daniel Shoag, a professor of economics at the university’s Weatherhead School of Management.

The study’s results had some surprises, specifically African-American women were hired less often in communities with Ban the Box. According to the research, the increase in the hiring of black men with records came at the detriment of black women.

Findings also included:
• Employment increases in communities with Ban the Box were large in the public sector and in lower-wage jobs;

• Positive employment effects were seen across multiple income and skill levels, as well as in urban and suburban areas;

• Ban the Box promoted “upskilling”— increases in education and experience requirements — as employers substitute criminal-background questions for others to determine an applicant’s qualifications;

• Employers stemmed a decades-long rise in the number of background checks.

Shoag and Stan Veuger, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, co-authored the research.

Many Ban the Box rules allow employers to do criminal-background checks later in the application process when a job offer is being considered. Researchers believe this delay is better than full-fledged bans, which may lead some employers to avoid risk, thus resulting in discrimination. In the U.S., African-Americans and Hispanics represent a much larger share of former criminal convicts than the rest of the population.

The research comes from a chapter Shoag and Veuger co-authored in Education for Liberation, a new volume focusing on bi-partisan strategies for prison reform.

 

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