Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 18 > Issue 4

Ban the Box? Information, Incentives, and Statistical Discrimination

John W. Patty, Professor of Political Science and Quantitative Theory & Methods, Emory University, USA, jwpatty@gmail.com , Elizabeth Maggie Penn, Professor of Political Science and Quantitative Theory & Methods, Emory University, USA, elizabeth.m.penn@gmail.com
Suggested Citation
John W. Patty and Elizabeth Maggie Penn (2023), "Ban the Box? Information, Incentives, and Statistical Discrimination", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 18: No. 4, pp 513-542. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00022021

Publication Date: 03 Oct 2023
© 2023 J. W. Patty and E. M. Penn
Industrial organization,  Labor economics,  Bureaucracy
Discriminationracial profilingequitymoral hazard


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In this article:
Related Literature 
The Model 
Market Heterogeneity: Two Groups 
Banning the Box 
Discussion: Welfare, Testing, and Empirical Implications 
Extensions and Conclusion 


"Banning the Box" refers to a policy campaign aimed at prohibiting employers from soliciting applicant information that could be used to statistically discriminate against categories of applicants (in particular, those with criminal records). In this article, we examine how the concealing or revealing of informative features about an applicant's identity affects hiring both directly and, in equilibrium, by possibly changing applicants' incentives to invest in human capital. We show that there exist situations in which an employer and an applicant are in agreement about whether to ban the box. Specifically, depending on the structure of the labor market, banning the box can be (1) Pareto dominant, (2) Pareto dominated, (3) benefit the applicant while harming the employer, or (4) benefit the employer while harming the applicant. Our results have policy implications spanning beyond employment decisions, including the use of credit checks by landlords and standardized tests in college admissions.