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Why Do Employers Discriminate Against People With Records? Stigma and The Case for Ban the Box

Dallas Augustine, Noah Zatz, Naomi Sugie

July 20, 2020

Publications, Policy Brief


This study addresses whether employers are using criminal records as a valuable source of information for risk management or if general stigma impacts employer hiring practices. The study finds that employer aversion to hiring people with criminal records was driven not only by concerns with future criminal behavior or other associated risks, but also, in significant part, by the stigma that accompanies a criminal record. Consequently, permitting decision makers unrestricted access to and use of criminal records allows for forms of exclusion that are based, at least in part, on stigma and stereotypes associated with contact with the criminal justice system rather than purely practical business concerns. Report authors conclude that regulating employers’ access to and use of criminal history through Ban the Box policies and other variants can both combat hiring discrimination and advance broader socioeconomic equality.

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