The Effect of Changing Employers' Access to Criminal Histories on Ex-Offenders' Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the 2010–2012 Massachusetts CORI Reform
How to best reintegrate large numbers of ex-offenders into civil society is an important challenge for U.S. public policy. In 2006, the Department of Justice estimated that over 30 percent of the U.S. adult population has some type of criminal record; the percentages are even higher for some minority groups. Having a criminal record can impose lasting costs, particularly for anyone seeking job, as gaining legal employment is usually the best chance an ex-offender has to effect a positive change in his or her life. In an effort to reduce some of barriers to employment that may arise from having a criminal record, some states and localities have adopted a policy widely known as ban the box, which prohibits employers from asking about an individual's criminal history on an initial job application. In November 2010, Massachusetts implemented a version of ban the box as the first step in reforming its laws governing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). The second step, effective in May 2012, changed who can access the state's CORI database, enacted limits on the information that can be obtained, and imposed a time limit regarding how long misdemeanor and felony convictions will be reported on standard employer requests. On the whole, the Massachusetts CORI Reform is widely regarded as a national model to help improve ex-offenders' labor market outcomes. This study uses a unique and confidential large dataset and rigorous econometric techniques to test how well the intended reforms have worked in practice. The results may help guide and improve upon similar reform efforts in other states.