Author: Ryoya Hashimoto

Program of Study: Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP), Harris School of Public Policy (HAR)


Description: “Ban the Box” Law is a popular policy removing the check box asks applicants have a criminal record in the job application process. However, recent research has revealed that this law, which was intended to promote equality, has brought inequality. What happened? What are the impacts on our society?

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Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2021! I’m your host, Ryoya Hashimoto, and I’m currently enrolled in the Harris School of Public Policy in the university of Chicago. Today we will be exploring the topic of Ban the Box Law.

Do you know “Ban the Box” Law? This law is for people with a criminal record, and remove the check box asks applicants have a criminal record in the job application process. According to a 2014 article in the WTTW by Friedman, the Illinois Department of Corrections releases about 30,000 people in prisons a year. Of them, half return to Chicago. This article states that “When people return from prison, the first thing that they want to do is get a job, to show they’re worthiness, to show their viability, to themselves and also to their families and children. Employment discrimination routinely denies that opportunity.” Ban the Box Law helps their first steps. In 2007, Chicago started the “Ban the Box” law, and this law required public sectors to remove questions that ‘Do you have any criminal record?’ After that, in 2015, Chicago required employers including private sectors removing this question.

This Ban the Box law is a popular policy. However, recent studies have revealed unintentional effect of this “ban the box” law. This law decreased the probability of employment for African American. Regardless of whether they have a criminal record or not, their employment rate was decreased. Although this law was intended to provide equal opportunities for employment, I was surprised knowing this law had this effect. I would like to deepen my knowledge of public policy in the university of Chicago and am interested in impact evaluation of public policies. I knew that many researchers have investigated the effect of the Ban the Box law, and based on these research articles, I would like to talk about the detail intentional and unintentional effect of “Ban the Box” law.

First, I would like to talk about a 2016 article in the Harvard Kennedy School by Shoag, and this study used nationally representative dataset. According to this study, Ban the Box laws raised the employment of residents in high-crime neighborhoods by as much as 4%, and the large part of the increase was hiring into public sectors. Another study also supports this conclusion. According to a 2019 article in the Economic Inquiry by Craigie, Ban the Box laws increased the probability of public employment of people with criminal records, and this accounts for a near 30% average increase in the probability of public employment for people with criminal records. Public sectors seem to have the highest compliance and be the central target of this policy, I think, and Ban the Box laws improved public employment for people with criminal records.

However, on the contrary to these intentional effects, other studies found negative effect of Ban the Box laws. According to 2020 article in the Journal of Labor Economics by Doleac, Ban the Box laws reduced hiring rates of African American, particularly young, low-skilled black men by 5.1%. And this research also measured the effects at the state level. In the Illinois state, including Chicago, the decrease of hiring rate of African American was statistically significant. This research also compared the effects of Ban the Box laws by law types, targeting public or private employers. As the result, private firms had no significant effect for African American. But white men had a large and statistically significant effect on employment by private Ban the Box laws. It increased employment by 4.5%. According to these research, Ban the Box laws provided differences in hiring rates based on the race and ethnicity. This phenomenon is called “statistical discrimination.” When employers cannot know which person has a criminal record, they may think “we should hire a person who will not have a criminal record.” This could happen even when other observable characteristics are identical. This study suggested that removing criminal history information could increase statistical discrimination against groups seem to include more people with crime records.

Chicago is a city with people living with various races, ethnic groups, and backgrounds. So I think providing equal employment opportunities is a top policy priority. A lot of studies have revealed that Ban the Box laws have various aspects depending on law types, targeting public or private or both. And now, Ban the Box laws have recently expanded into new fields in the U.S. Some Ban the Box laws were applied to housing applications or college applications. If Chicago starts with these new Ban the Box laws, will these laws bring equality or inequality to Chicago? Further research will clarify the effects of these laws, and based on these research, better policymaking can improve the lives of marginalized communities in Chicago.

Thank you for listening to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2021. I’m your host Ryoya Hashimoto and hope you enjoyed my talk. If you want to learn more about the Ban the Box Law, please read references below. Goodbye!


1. Brandis Friedman, Ban the Box, September 3, 2014, WTTW URL:
2. Daniel Shoag, Stan Veuger, No Woman No Crime Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling, May 25, 2016, Harvard Kennedy School
3. Terry-Ann L. Craigie, Ban the Box, Convictions, and Public Employment, Economic Inquiry, 58(2019), 425-445
4. Jennifer L. Doleac, Benjamin Hansen, The Unintended Consequences of “Ban the Box”: Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden, Journal of Labor Economics, 38(2020), 321-374

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