Employers’ Use of Criminal Background Checks: Discrimination, Inequality and Chapstick

The criminal justice system in the United States is an unqualified disaster — the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report (pdf) gives black men a one in three chance of ending up in prison at some point in their lives — compared to about a 5% chance for white men. So we’re already missing an astounding number of black men from the labor pool by the sheer fact that they’re locked up.

But it doesn’t get much better when they get out. We’ve already discussed how identical job applicants with “black” sounding names are much less likely to get called for a job interview. Add in a conviction record, and suddenly a black candidate’s chances of being called for an interview drop to about 5%. (Does it get worse? Of course it does — a black applicant with no conviction record is still less likely to get a job interview than a white applicant with a conviction record.) That 5% statistic was in 2003 — think how much worse a black ex-con’s chances are now, with the unemployment rate climbing astronomically. Continue reading