Date

2016

Department or Program

Economics

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Phil Levine

Additional Advisor(s)

Robin McKnight

Additional Advisor

Kyung Park

Abstract

Many states have recently instituted Ban the Box (BTB) policies, which are aimed at reducing post-incarceration employment barriers for ex-offenders by prohibiting employers from inquiring about criminal backgrounds on initial job applications. My analysis investigates the impact of BTB legislation by looking at state government employment outcomes resulting from the introduction of BTB provisions for state government hiring. I utilize a triple difference estimation strategy and data from the American Community Survey to evaluate the impact of BTB implementation. I look for changes in state employment in those states implementing BTB laws after the laws went into effect. Moreover, because of the high rates of criminality amongst the African-American high school dropout population, we would also expect BTB to have a larger relative impact on black dropouts than white dropouts. My findings suggest that in states with BTB legislation, state employment fell by 0.83 percentage points for black dropouts relative to white dropouts in those states implementing these laws after they went into effect. This is the opposite of what the policy’s proponents anticipated. These results come with the caveat that the impact of the law change does not line up perfectly with the introduction of the law; however, this may be symptomatic of large decreases in government hiring due to the recession, which coincides with the implementation of BTB. I conclude that BTB may be ineffective at increasing ex-offender employment outcomes and may even be reducing employment levels for low-skilled African Americans without criminal records, consistent with statistical discrimination.

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