Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel: Employment and Recidivism Prospects Among Criminals
(Crime and Drugs)

Friday, November 13, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Garima Siwach, University at Albany - SUNY
Panel Chairs:  Shawn Bushway, University at Albany - SUNY
Discussants:  Michael Stoll, University of California, Los Angeles

Estimating the Labor Market Effects of the Criminal Record Expungement and Sealing
Charles E. Loeffler1, Jens Ludwig2, Jason Schnittker1 and Christopher Uggen3, (1)University of Pennsylvania, (2)University of Chicago, (3)University of Minnesota

It is indisputable that employers have serious reservations about hiring individuals with a criminal record (Holzer et al. 2006; Pager and Quillian 2005). These barriers have become even stronger in an era of widespread criminal background checks, where technology has made screening easier to conduct (Bushway et al. 2007). While not denying that employers have a business necessity to safeguard their businesses, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently drawn attention to the need to balance the employers’ concerns with the need to give individuals with records a second chance, particularly if they are low risk (EEOC 2012). However, the EEOC also explicitly recognized that research does not currently exist that demonstrates the costs (or benefits) of these second chances on the employment or criminal behavior of applicants with records. This panel presents new research that addresses this hole with a set of studies that focus on the impact of background check policies on the employment and crime outcomes of individuals with records. The first paper on this panel studies the role of background checks by analyzing the effect of receiving a clearance to work in the health care industry in New York State on recidivism. The other papers study specific policies followed under a background check, in particular, policies on time since last offense, and sealing or expungement. Many studies have shown that the likelihood of returning to criminal activities decreases with time “clean” (Blumstein 2010). It is not clear, however, what this optimal time is, giving rise to a need for empirical studies to analyze how employers actually use this factor in making clearance decisions. We look closely at a state mandated policy on “time clean” and analyze its impact on recidivism and employment. Another growing legal measure that helps overcome the barriers to reentry, especially for individuals with minor crimes, is to make their records inaccessible to employers. Federal and state governments have created expungement laws through which the criminal record of an individual can be obliterated or sealed. Our panel discusses whether or not, and for whom, these policies are effective, by analyzing their impact on employment outcomes. The studies in this panel apply rigorous causal statistical techniques in novel ways to address these important issues around background checks. In addition, they hold direct policy relevance in a policy environment that is still trying to find the correct balance between the legitimate needs of employers and the needs of individuals with records.
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