Scientific studies have long documented the negative impact of a prison record on a person's ability to find employment. But what happens when gender and race/ethnicity are factored in? And what is the impact when the current reality of online job-applying is also factored in?
Dr. Scott Decker and his colleagues have recently completed an in-depth examination of the roles of race, gender, and education in one of the greatest social challenges facing our nation today: employment for criminal offenders returning to the community. The study consisted of six pairs of job applicants: Black men, Black women, Hispanic men, Hispanic women, White men and White women; the résumé of one person in each pair showed a prison record; in every other respect, their résumés were identical. Using an "audit" method, the researchers studied what happened when the participants applied in-person for more than 500 jobs with 60 different employers in Arizona. Using a "correspondence" method, they studied what happened when the participants applied online for more than 6,100 jobs. Finally, the researchers interviewed 48 employers from the audit portion of the study.
The findings — including the impact of having some post-high school education — may surprise you. Based on the results of this three-year study, Dr. Decker makes recommendations that could be critically important as decision-makers craft policies and strategies to help criminal offenders obtain employment, particularly in this increasingly online world.