Barred from Employment

More Than Half of Unemployed Men in Their 30s Had a Criminal History of Arrest

Published in: Science Advances, Volume 8, Issue 7 (2022). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abj6992

Posted on RAND.org on March 09, 2022

by Shawn D. Bushway, Irineo Cabreros, Jessica Paige, Daniel Schwam, Jeffrey B. Wenger

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We investigate what portion of the pool of unemployed men in the United States have been arrested, convicted, or incarcerated by age 35. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997, we estimate 64% of unemployed men have been arrested, and 46% have been convicted. Unexpectedly, these rates vary only slightly by race and ethnicity. Further investigation of other outcomes such as marriage, education, household net worth, and earnings shows large differences between unemployed men who have a criminal history record and those who do not. One major implication of these findings is that employment services should focus more on the special challenges facing unemployed men with criminal history records. A second implication is that statistical discrimination against unemployed members of racial minority groups, to avoid hiring those with criminal histories, is both illegal and ineffective.

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