Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers?

In a research paper on the Cato Institute website, Jennifer Doleac and Benjamin Hansen summarize their analysis of statistical discrimination and employment outcomes when criminal histories are hidden from employers. Their conclusion:

Our study therefore contributes to a growing literature showing that well-intentioned policies that remove information about negative characteristics can do more harm than good. Advocates for these policies seem to think that in the absence of information, employers will assume the best about all job applicants. This is often not the case. Research has shown that providing information about characteristics that are less favorable, on average, among black job-seekers — including criminal records, personality tests, drug tests, and credit histories — actually helps black men and black women find jobs. These outcomes are what we would expect from standard statistical discrimination models. More information helps the best job candidates avoid discrimination.