NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Do Ban the Box Laws Increase Crime?

Joseph J. Sabia, Taylor Mackay, Thanh Tam Nguyen, Dhaval M. Dave

NBER Working Paper No. 24381
Issued in March 2018, Revised in April 2019
NBER Program(s):Health Economics Program, Law and Economics Program, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program

Ban-the-box (BTB) laws, which prevent employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories at initial job screenings, are intended to increase employment opportunities and reduce economic incentives for crime. This study is the first to explore the relationship between BTB laws and crime. Using agency-by-month data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), we find that BTB laws are associated with a 10 percent increase in criminal incidents involving Hispanic male arrestees. This finding is supported by parallel analysis using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) and is consistent with BTB law-induced job loss due to employer-based statistical discrimination. We find no evidence that BTB laws increase property crime among African American men despite their also facing statistical discrimination. Supplemental analyses from the American Community Survey (ACS) suggest that barriers to welfare participation among Hispanic men may explain this result. Our estimates suggest that BTB laws generate $401 million in annual crime costs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24381

 
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