Taking Race Out Of Job Applications Actually Has Detrimental Effects

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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New research finds that polices aiming to stop discrimination in the labor market may actually accomplish the opposite.

Ban the box” is a national campaign that aims to ban the check box on job applications requiring disclosure of former criminal conviction.

While the unemployment rate remains steady at under five percent, there are still some 7.8 million Americans out of work/seeking full-time employment. The Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., finds that the number of ex-criminals out of work “costs the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.”

It would appear then that finding a way to get former criminals back into the work force is a priority, not just for ex-criminals, but for the American economy as a whole.

Good intentions notwithstanding, banning the criminal box on job applications exacerbates the race gap between who gets interviewed and who gets hired, the Journal reports. A study found that one firm banning the box would screen out African American sounding names, and would call back those applicants with white sounding names. Essentially, the firm was  widening the racial gap by systematically screening names.

The reason for this is that employers may associate black Americans with higher levels of crime and thus likely to have a criminal background, experts note.

The National Employment Law Project still advocates for ban the box policies in spite of the studies showing the results may not align with goals. They say the policy still gives ex-criminals a better opportunity to gain employment. Racism, the organization says, will not be stopped by taking away ban the box laws.

While this policy may not be hitting the mark, there is good reason for the majority of Americans to be concerned. Nearly one in three American adults are on file with the FBI criminal database. An arrest record, not to mention a criminal conviction, makes it astronomically more difficult to get a job.

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Robert Donachie