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 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.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.