Shawn D. Bushway

Photo of Shawn Bushway
Senior Policy Researcher
Off Site Office


Ph.D. in public policy analysis and political economy, Carnegie Mellon University; B.S. in mathematics, University of Notre Dame


Shawn D. Bushway (he/him) is an economist and criminologist who has has published more than 80 peer reviewed papers in top journals primarily in three distinct areas: the causal relationship between work and crime, the use of discretion by actors in the criminal justice system, and the process by which people desist from crime. Occasionally, the areas intersect, such as his collection of studies on recidivism over time. This body of work was instigated by legal questions surrounding the appropriate role of criminal history records, particularly old criminal history records, in employment decisions. On the basis of research, Bushway has testified in front of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, worked with advocacy groups for individuals with criminal history records, and consulted with employers seeking to modify their background check processes. Current projects include a study of the impact of principals' suspension decisions on student outcomes, an exploration of the causes of mass incarceration and a comparison of criminal history record checks conducted using different methods. He is a fellow of the American Society of Criminology and a member of the Committee on Crime, Law and Justice for the National Academy of Science.

Selected Publications

Lucy Sorensen, Shawn Bushway and Elizabeth Gifford, "Getting Tough: The Effects of Discretional Principal Discipline on Student Outcomes," Education Finance and Policy (forthcoming)

Audrey Hickert, Shawn Bushway, Paul Nieuwbeerta, and Anja Dirkzwager, "Confinement as a Two-State Turning Point: Do Change in Identity or Social Structure Predict Subsequent Changes in Criminal Activity," Criminology (forthcoming)

Greg Ridgeway, Ruth Moyer and Shawn Bushway, "Sentencing Scorecards: Reducing Racial Disparities in Prison Sentences at their Source," Criminology and Public Policy, 19(4), 2020

Shawn Bushway and Nidhi Kalra, "A Policy Review of Employer's Access to Conviction Records," Annual Review of Criminology, 4, 2021

David Harding, Jeffrey Morenoff, Anh Nguyen, Shawn Bushway and Ingrid Binswanger, "A Natural Experiment Study of the Effects of Imprisonment on Violence in the Community," Nature: Human Behavior, 3, 2019

Megan Denver, Justin Pickett and Shawn Bushway, "The Language of Stigmatization and the Mark of Violence: Experimental Evidence on the Social Construction and Use of Criminal Record Stigma," Criminology, 55, 2017

Shi Yan and Shawn Bushway, "Plea Discounts or Trial Penalties? Making Sense of the Trial-Plea Sentence Disparities," Justice Quarterly, 35, 2018

Yinzhi Shen, Shawn Bushway, Lucy Sorensen, and Herb Smith, "Locking up My Generation: Cohort Differences in Prison Spells over the Life Course," Criminology, 54, 2020

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow of the American Society of Criminology
  • Distinguished Alumnus, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
  • SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship


  • An inmate walks back to his cell after mopping the floor at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino, California, June 3, 2011, photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    Defund Prisons, Not Police

    The United States spends billions on prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities. New lows in incarceration rates present a chance to shift resources away from costly correctional facilities and toward education, job training, transportation, and other community services.

    Aug 9, 2021 Los Angeles Times