Research / BFI Working PaperMay 07, 2024

Can You Erase the Mark of a Criminal Record? Labor Market Impacts of Criminal Record Remediation

Amanda Y. Agan, Andrew Garin, Dmitri Koustas, Alexandre Mas, Crystal Yang

We investigate whether removing a previously-obtained criminal record improves employment outcomes. We estimate the causal impact of criminal record remediation laws that have been widely enacted with the goal of improving employment opportunities for millions of individuals with records. We find consistent evidence that removing an existing record does not improve labor market outcomes, on average. A notable exception is participation in gig work through online platforms, which often screen workers based on their records but not their employment histories. The evidence is consistent with records initially scarring labor market trajectories in a way that is difficult to undo later.

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