A recent study by The University of Michigan confirms that the “Ban the Box” reform over criminal history records may lead to racial disparity by employers. The initiative makes the removal of criminal history records from initial applications easier for former inmates to achieve an initial interview. However the campaign does not stop potential employers from conducting a background check thereafter. What underpins the legislation is the opportunity to re-enter and integrate with the community. While also providing the applicant a chance to demonstrate to employers their abilities and aptitude for the role or position.
Over 45 countries and cities along with 7 states have embraced the policy confirmed by the Ban the Box website. The positive moves a way forward to reducing discriminatory employment standards based around criminal history records. Two high profile initiatives saw the president’s support for federal job applicants and in 2014 city employment policy saw the support of Ann Arbor.
The report’s authors wanted to look in to the effects of the legislation as the legislation is taken up across the country. Part of the main argument for Ban the Box is one of racial discrimination. Especially the opening up employment opportunities to young Black men. It is often cited that black males are disproportionately likely to have criminal records. Employers are, more often than not, reluctant to hire individuals with criminal records. A research assistant was tasked with sending bogus job applications in New Jersey and New York. These were sent preceding and post Ban the Box laws. Researchers were further given fake names, ethnicity and profiles which were sent in pairs. One white and one black applicant and one with criminal history records and one without. All applicants were male with identical applications save race and criminal history records. Results confirmed an increase in in racial disparity towards Black males.
Ban the Box is seemingly somewhat of a mixed bag. Employers are complying with Ban the Box legislation to remove initial obstacles. However an increase in racial disparity was seen after it went in to effect. Prior to Ban the Box whites (male) had 7% higher callbacks then their black counterparts. Since Ban the Box this has increased to 45%. The author puts forward that the consequences are unintended. The fact is lost that most black males don’t have criminal convictions. Therefore Ban the Box prevents these black males from making this known to employers. Statistical discrimination was breeding stereotypes. It may be true that disproportionately black males arel ikley to have criminal records but this should not be applicable to any one individual.