Ban the Box? An Effort to Stop Discrimination May Actually Increase It


NY Times:

Ban the Box? An Effort to Stop Discrimination May Actually Increase It

Policies aimed at ending discrimination against people with criminal records may actually have the unintended consequence of increasing racial discrimination.That, at least, is the finding of a fascinating new study that focused on so-called ban the box regulations — rules that prohibit initial job applications from asking prospective employees to check a box indicating whether they have a criminal history.
It has implications for nearly all policies aimed at eliminating racial inequities.

When we try to end discrimination without addressing the underlying causes of discriminatory behavior, our efforts may accomplish little — and may even backfire.
Efforts to ban the box are racially charged. As Bruce Western, a Harvard sociologist, documented in his 2009 book, “Punishment and Inequality in America,” many of those with criminal histories are black, particularly among the roughly 30 percent of black males who do not have high school diplomas. By 2013, nearly 70 percent of black male high school dropouts in their early 30s had served time in prison.

The researchers sent fictitious job applications to employers before and after the regulations took effect, focusing on jobs for “candidates with limited work experience, no postsecondary education and no specialized skills.” Some applications were randomly assigned a criminal history and some were not; some were assigned a first name found to be more common among American blacks (like Tyree), while others were given names that have been more common among whites (like Scott).
Before the regulations took effect, candidates with criminal histories were far less likely to be called back, irrespective of race.

After the regulations took effect, though, things changed. Lacking the ability to discern criminal history, employers became much less likely to call back any apparently black applicant. They seemed to treat all black applicants now as if they might have a criminal past.
These were big and disheartening effects: Banning the box extended discrimination to virtually all black applicants.
But where should we go from here? It would be wrong to conclude from one study that these regulations are a bad idea. Research continues, and while other studies have reached similar conclusions, the verdict is not in yet.


I don’t know enough about it one way or the other. Personally, I wish they would stop asking questions about race and ethnicity on job applications, but that’s something else entirely. I think THAT encourages discrimination.


In a lot of times they don’t have to ask when someone is named ShaQuana or lives in a zip code that is predominately black. That’s why when they use “white” names vs “black” names to see which gets called back for interviews.
A former black co-worker, Mary Irishlastanme who “talked white” said she could always see the look of shock when she showed up for interviews as if someone had slipped in a ringer.


I have some relatives with Spanish surnames. One told me it’s kind of fun to watch people’s expressions when they’re expecting someone Hispanic. :wink:


That’s another example of unintended consequences. They have to ask or guess since they have to report applicant demographics to the EEOC.


It has been my experience that potential hires must submit to a background check. No responsible company is going to hire a person who has a criminal history of violent crime nor should they.


This may explain why some people take “Canadian” names when they arrive in this country.


If it weren’t for his name and his TV image, I probably wouldn’t have ever guessed that Barack Obama is black.

But I digress.


I wouldn’t have either, but I also wouldn’t have thought he was white or American-born, either.


He sounds like he’s from an upper-middle-class Midwestern family, if you ask me.

But of course, his name is Barack Obama, which means that if I had just run into the name with no proper context, I’d think he was born in sub-Saharan Africa (I don’t know enough about the geography thereof to be more specific :().


Maybe not, but if those with a criminal record, even for violent crimes, are forever barred from gainful employment, where does that leave them? And us?

We shouldn’t turn every sentence into a life sentence.


Oh, his accent, for sure. He sounds educated.

But of course, his name is Barack Obama, which means that if I had just run into the name with no proper context, I’d think he was born in sub-Saharan Africa (I don’t know enough about the geography thereof to be more specific :().

That’s what I was thinking too, and if I just saw his name written down, I would expect someone from the Middle East.


In some industries, they hire plenty of ex-convicts. If you’re on the line welding aluminum window frames or cutting the breast meat off chickens, or running walnut logs through a veneer saw, it hardly matters whether you have spent time in jail. But in a bank, or anyplace where there is access to cash, I think it’s a legitimate concern.


This also seems to suggest that racism is still very prevalent in our society, despite all of the people trying to deny it. Racial profiling is clearly a pretty ubiquitous thing, whether that’s in law enforcement or employment.


Instead of broadbrushing they should go case by case. The charges are not necessarily the whole story.


I originally thought he was Brock O’Bama.

This is what I got when I googled “Tyree”:


Thats basically what background checks for jobs have done, make most convictions life sentences. My company will not hire a person with a felony conviction, even if it was 25 yrs ago and they have completely paid their debt to society, and have not done anything since…that is wrong imo and should be changed.

Plus, the strange thing is, before we had BG checks for nearly every job out there and people could just lie about their past, we had less problems in the workplace, things that are common today, how does that make any sense?


It’s because of the litigious society we live in. If that felon re-offended and the company knew about the prior conviction, there would be lawsuits and the company could be bankrupted. I don’t blame companies for trying to protect themselves but we need a solution and a real way to integrate former convicts into not just society but the economy.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit