“Ban the Box” laws don’t work. So why do lawmakers love them so?

Elected officials across the aisle agree in applauding “ban the box” laws. Too bad they don’t work, I argue in my new piece at Cato. Earlier research found the laws didn’t improve employment of ex-offenders and actually harmed some groups. Now a new study finds no benefit for recidivism — and once again, harm to some groups.

With studies finding such laws ineffective even as to government hiring, “how much less justification is there for using them to constrain the freedom of private employers that have never incarcerated anyone”? Especially when directed at non-government employers, such laws “are a triumph of feel-good sentiment over economic rationality, practicality, and in the end the interests of the intended beneficiaries.” Whole piece here.


  • Given that it is likely that we have all committed a felony, because of all the stupid laws on the books,having a felony conviction is really meaningless. in reality, being a felon just as likely means you got caught, and the prosecutors overcharged, and you were forced into a plea bargain, than you did something that would render you unable to perform a job.

    Perhaps the box should require a written response: “Please describe anything you have done after the age of 18 (or before the age of 18 that could have resulted in you being prosecuted as an adult) that could have resulted in a conviction, regardless of whether you were caught, accused, charged, or convicted of a crime, and which might impact upon your suitablility for the job for which you are applying.”

  • A long time ago I remember reading a piece here about a woman and her daughter that was murdered by a handyman at a resort. It centered on the owner of the resort being held responsible because he didn’t dig deep enough into the handyman’s background before hiring him.

    So now that we are getting these “ban the box” laws, do they remove the responsibility from the business when something like this happens?