“Ban the box” laws that bar employers from asking job applicants whether they have a criminal record may be harming some of the people they are intended to help, reports Stateline. Twenty-nine states prevent state and some city and county employers from including a criminal history box on job applications. Nine states have extended the ban to private employers. The idea is that removing the box stops employers from rejecting a candidate with a record before meeting him. If granted an interview, the applicant might be able to make a good impression and perhaps explain his conviction before the employer uncovers it.
Studies have found that black men, even those without a criminal history, are less likely to get called back or hired after a ban the box law is enacted. Researchers suspect that employers who can’t ask about criminal backgrounds preemptively weed out young black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. A study of Massachusetts ex-offenders found that regardless of race, people with criminal records were less likely to get jobs after ban the box than before. Jennifer Doleac, a University of Virginia economics professor, says ban the box laws should be scrapped. “We have two very good studies that show it’s really hurting young black men who don’t have college degrees and who struggle in the labor market for other reasons,” she said. Ban the box supporters say young white men appear to have been helped by the laws. “The problem isn’t ban the box, the problem is racial discrimination and that we haven’t been able to tackle it,” said Michelle Rodriguez of the National Employment Law Center.