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A new RAND study investigates the effects a criminal record has on men’s employment

Updated: Mar 11

Key Takeaways :

  • The connection between employment prospects and past convictions is clear. More than half of unemployed men in their 30s have a history of justice-involvement. An estimated 64% of unemployed men have been arrested, and approximately 46% of unemployed men have been convicted of a crime by age 35.

  • The disproportionate negative impact that flawed criminal justice practices have on BIPOC communities is staggering. Black men are 33% more likely to be arrested than white men, exasperating systemic challenges that affect employment opportunities. By age 35, roughly half of Black men have been arrested, one in three have been convicted of a crime, and one in four have been incarcerated.

  • All races are equally likely to have a criminal history record. Employers cannot effectively, nor legally, use race-based statistical discrimination to avoid hiring individuals with criminal histories.


‍The RAND study aims to address the question of whether past justice involvement will influence individuals whose labor is underused, relative to the general population. The RAND researchers used data from approximately 4,600 men who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997. They collected data including job information and criminal justice involvement, on people born between 1980 and 1984 by surveying these individuals regularly since 2011.

Researchers make the case that unemployed individuals within the candidate pool will also likely have some previous involvement with the justice system. Adequately addressing the harms of past justice involvement is crucial for unemployed individuals as well as employers struggling to hire candidates. The findings from this study suggest that employment services should focus more on the unique challenges facing unemployed people with past convictions.

To read a response to the RAND study, please visit:

To read the full RAND study, please visit:


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