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August 04, 2017

The Law Of Unintended Consequences Strikes Again: Racial Profiling Is Encouraged By Government Policy

Ban-The-Box policies are simple; employers cannot ask about criminal records of prospective employees. Ignoring the idiocy of being forced to interview felons, it sounds like a pretty straightforward way of increasing employment among those with criminal records. Except, all it does is guarantee discrimination against segments of society perceived to have a greater likelihood of criminality and incarceration. Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment is a link to the abstract of a seemingly well-designed study:

To investigate BTB's effects, we sent approximately 15,000 online job applications on behalf of fictitious young male applicants to employers in New Jersey and New York City before and after the adoption of BTB policies. These applications varied whether the applicant had a distinctly black or distinctly white name and the felony conviction status of the applicant.
That's a nicely designed study. Two variables, and they are comparing before and after. You don't need a PhD in Statistics to run multiple regressions on the data. The interpretation is self-evident:
We confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment: employers that asked about criminal records were 63% more likely to call applicants with no record. However, our results support the concern that BTB policies encourage racial discrimination: the black-white gap in callbacks grew dramatically at companies that removed the box after the policy went into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to employers with the box received 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increased this gap to 43%.
So let's get this straight; if you as an employer are not allowed to discern the criminality of your applicants with a simple question, and select the non-criminals, you will use other means to protect your business. Like rejecting applicants from empirically criminal segments of society. Wow. Who knew?

Here is another recent study that shows the same thing:

We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant's criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.
Is this discrimination? Is it now unreasonable to require that one's employees are not criminals? That's rhetorical.

But the best part of this is the typical arrogance of government; that more regulation and more control over economic decisions is in the best interest of society. They are getting exactly the opposite of the intended result, yet I am sure that they simply don't care, or more probably don't even know. Because the real goal, as everyone around here knows, is more control, not more employment.

Imagine the anger and resentment in one of the few lucky kids in some hell hole project in the Bronx or Newark. He has two parents, has stayed out of trouble, and even does reasonably well in school. But his resume gets bounced immediately, even though he might very well be a fine, or at least trouble-free employee.

On second thought, maybe that anger and resentment is exactly the goal!

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posted by CBD at 05:03 PM

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