Justice Quarterly

Denver, Megan, Justin T. Pickett*, and Shawn D. Bushway*



Ban-the-Box (BTB) legislation, which bans employers from asking about criminal history records on the initial job application, is arguably the most prominent policy arising from the prisoner reentry movement. BTB policies assume: 1) most employers ask about criminal records, and 2) inquiries occur at the application stage. However, we lack reliable information about the validity of these assumptions or about public attitudes towards criminal background checks, which limits our understanding of the potential scope of this innovative policy. Using survey data from a national probability sample, we estimate that in the past year, over 31 million U.S. adults were asked about a criminal record on a job application. According to our survey, virtually all of the criminal record inquiries occurred at the application stage, highlighting the potential of BTB. However, we also found that the public is sharply divided on whether to prevent employers from asking on applications, as per BTB.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff