Amanda Agan

First name
Amanda
Last name
Agan
Abstract

“Ban-the-Box” (BTB) policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal
histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among
black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. However, withholding information about
criminal records could risk encouraging statistical discrimination: employers may make
assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race or other observable characteristics. To
investigate this possibility as well as the effects of race and criminal records on employer callback
rates, we sent approximately 15,000 fictitious online job applications to employers in New Jersey
and New York City, before and after each jurisdiction’s adoption of BTB policies. Our causal
effect estimates are based on a triple-differences design, which exploits the fact that many
businesses’ applications did not ask about records even before BTB and were thus unaffected by the
law.
Our results confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment, but they also
support the concern that BTB policies encourage statistical discrimination on the basis of race.
Overall, white applicants received 23% more callbacks than similar black applicants and employers
that ask about criminal records are 62% more likely to call back an applicant if he has no record.
However, we find that the race gap in callbacks grows dramatically at the BTB-affected companies
after the policy goes into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to BTB-affected employers received
about 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increases this gap to 45%.

Year of Publication
2016
Number
598
Date Published
07/2016
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
9526
Starr, S., & Agan, A. (2016). "Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment". Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp011j92g993v (Original work published 07/2016AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

Governments in the U.S. must offer free legal services to low-income people accused of crimes. These services are frequently provided by assigned counsel, who handle cases for indigent defendants on a contract basis. Court-assigned attorneys generally garner worse case outcomes than privately retained attorneys. Using detailed court records from one large jurisdiction in Texas, we find that the disparities in outcomes are primarily attributable to case characteristics and within-attorney differences across cases in which they are assigned versus retained. The selection of low-quality lawyers into assigned counsel and endogenous matching in the private market contribute less to the disparities.

Year of Publication
2017
Number
613
Date Published
09/2017
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
10276
Freedman, M., Owens, E., & Agan, A. (2017). Is Your Lawyer a Lemon? Incentives and Selection in the Public Provision of Criminal Defense. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp018623j138c (Original work published 09/2017AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

For recently released prisoners, the minimum wage and the availability of state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) can influence both their ability to find employment and their potential legal wages relative to illegal sources of income, in turn affecting the probability they return to prison. Using administrative prison release records from nearly six million o enders released between 2000 and 2014, we use a difference-in-
differences strategy to identify the effect of over two hundred state and federal minimum wage increases, as well as 21 state EITC programs, on recidivism. We find that the average minimum wage increase of 8% reduces the probability that men and women return to prison within 1 year by 2%. This implies that on average the wage effect, drawing at least some ex-o enders into the legal labor market, dominates any reduced
employment in this population due to the minimum wage. These reductions in reconvictions are observed for the potentially revenue generating crime categories of property and drug crimes; prison reentry for violent crimes are unchanged, supporting our framing that minimum wages affect crime that serves as a source of income. The availability of state EITCs also reduces recidivism, but only for women. Given that
state EITCs are predominantly available to custodial parents of minor children, this asymmetry is not surprising. Framed within a simple model where earnings from criminal endeavors serve as a reservation wage for ex-o enders, our results suggest that the wages of crime are on average higher than comparable opportunities for low-skilled labor in the legal labor market.

Year of Publication
2018
Number
616
Date Published
01/2018
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
10371
Makowsky, M., & Agan, A. (2018). The Minimum Wage, EITC, and Criminal Recidivism. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01hq37vr24k (Original work published 01/2018AD)
Working Papers