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Jul 13, 2023

Outside the Box: Measuring the Unintended Consequences of Ban the Box Policies at an Industry Level

(Highest Honors Thesis under the direction of Dr. Gerald Cohen)

As firms continue struggling through the contemporary labor shortage, traditionally overlooked populations present an opportunity to expand the workforce. Ban the box (BTB) policies have emerged as a popular mechanism to improve ex-offender hiring, in particular, by prohibiting criminal background inquiries on job applications. However, recent research suggests BTB may unintentionally worsen overall employment outcomes for Black and Hispanic men by inviting statistical discrimination. This thesis investigates how BTB-induced discrimination varies across industries. Using the Callaway and Sant’Anna difference estimator, I estimate BTB’s effect on Black and Hispanic shares of hires across nine industries. Overall, BTB improved Black and Hispanic hiring in most industries, though the effect on Black shares often diminished over time. Reductions in hire shares were rare and only observed in customer-facing industries with low entry barriers. This study highlights the importance of considering industry- specific consequences when creating policies to improve ex-offender employment outcomes.

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