Cover: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Workers with a Criminal History

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Workers with a Criminal History

Published in: Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (January 2023). doi: 10.21916/mlr.2023.1

Posted on rand.org Feb 14, 2023

by Daniel Schwam, Shawn D. Bushway, Jeffrey B. Wenger

Few researchers have focused on the labor market problems that U.S. workers with a criminal history record (CHR) experienced during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In this article, we use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) COVID-19 Supplement to examine the extent to which workers with a CHR had employment disruptions—gaps in employment or reductions in hours and earnings—during the early months of the pandemic. We find that survey respondents with a CHR were more likely than those without a CHR to have had at least one employment disruption in the 12 months prior to the survey. Even workers with a CHR who were stably employed during the 2- to 3-year period before the pandemic were more likely than their non-CHR counterparts to have had a pandemic-related employment disruption. We argue that these disparities occur mostly because people with a CHR are more likely to work in industries that were more negatively affected by the pandemic. Within broad industry groups, the differences in disruptions for those with and without a CHR are not statistically significant, implying that hiring patterns by industry—rather than differential treatment—explain most of the observed differences in employment outcomes by CHR status.

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