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Open Access Publications from the University of California

IRLE’s Policy Brief series is aimed at translating the academic research of our faculty affiliates and campus researchers to a policy audience. We distribute briefs to policymakers and journalists.

For questions about the series, or to submit your research for consideration, please contact Series Editor Lori Ann Ospina

Cover page of The Limits of Ban-the-Box Legislation

The Limits of Ban-the-Box Legislation


Nationwide, 36 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “Ban the Box” (BtB) (NELP 2020). These policies require employers to remove conviction and arrest history questions from job applications and delay background checks until after a conditional offer has been made.  The policy is designed to encourage employers to consider a job candidate’s qualifications first – without the stigma of a criminal record – in the hopes of reducing barriers to employment that justice-involved individuals face.

We imagine two ways that BtB might work. The first is by changing employers’ hiring practices. Existing research on the former indicates the policy does increase callback and hiring rates for people with criminal records (Agan and Starr 2016; Atkinson and Lockwood 2014; Berracasa et al. 2016; Shoag and Veuger 2016), but effects appear highly contingent on the race of the job seeker and on the employment sector. The second way that BtB might reduce barriers to employment is by altering whether and how individuals with criminal records search for work. No research to date, however, has examined whether individuals with criminal records know about BtB, their perception of how efficacious it is, and what impacts the policy’s implementation has had on justice-involved individuals’ job search patterns.

To address the latter shortcoming, we surveyed 351 probationers in the San Francisco Bay Area and conducted in-depth interviews with a subset of 43. We learned that three major barriers continue to limit individuals’ ability to benefit from the policy. First, few of our survey respondents knew about BtB at all, much less that it had been implemented. Second, whether they knew about BtB or not, the majority perceived that they had recently been discriminated against because they had criminal records, with a significant minority to a majority reporting discrimination at each stage of the hiring process. Third, our Black respondents also perceived that employers continue to discriminate against Black applicants, making finding and keeping work extremely difficult.

In this brief, we elaborate on these three points in the hopes that our findings will inform the development not only of fair chance policies aimed at increasing employment opportunities for justice-involved individuals, but also of a broader set of policies on employment and re-entry.

Cover page of Framing the Case for Supporting Immigrants

Framing the Case for Supporting Immigrants


To build support for a cause, activists frame issues in ways they think will resonate with the public. UC Berkeley researchers find that one of the primary tactics for activists—using a civil rights framework to frame an issue—can actually decrease public support. Particularly in the case of immigrant rights and legalization, activists should reevaluate their strategies in order to successfully persuade the public to adopt change.

Cover page of Retaining Teachers of Color to Improve Student Outcomes

Retaining Teachers of Color to Improve Student Outcomes


Low pay for teachers has received significant national attention, but having a diverse teaching workforce is also critical for improving student outcomes. A large but often ignored problem in America’s education system is the lack of diverse representation among teachers. There are very few male teachers of color in the classroom, and the turnover rate for ones that exist is disproportionately high. Retaining such teachers is a critical element in efforts to narrow the achievement gap and improve student outcomes.

Cover page of Finding Employment After Contact with the Carceral System

Finding Employment After Contact with the Carceral System


People who have been arrested, convicted of a crime, or incarcerated face many barriers to employment. While much of the difficulty in finding employment is due to institutional exclusion, a UC Berkeley researcher has attributed some of the problem to ineffective job search methods. What can policymakers do to ensure that people who have interacted with the carceral system can find employment?

Cover page of The Post-Recession Labor Market: An Incomplete Recovery

The Post-Recession Labor Market: An Incomplete Recovery


Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow and extremely prolonged. It was tempting to conclude, at various points, that we had recovered as much as we were going to. Even after the official unemployment rate receded, other indicators of recovery remained much more mixed—the share of people employed remained well below pre-recession levels; wages were stagnant; and inequality continued to grow. Absent clear evidence of a full recovery, including healthy wage growth, policy efforts should emphasize ensuring that the benefits of growth are broadly shared.

Cover page of The Great Recession, Families, and the Safety Net

The Great Recession, Families, and the Safety Net


The Great Recession caused significant hardship for many U.S. families. Safety net programs—some of which were expanded during the recession and its recovery—mitigated some of the worst effects, but were not available to all households and were insufficient to compensate for the depth of the downturn. What can policymakers learn from the adequacy of the response?

Cover page of What Really Caused the Great Recession?

What Really Caused the Great Recession?


The Great Recession devastated local labor markets and the national economy. Ten years later, Berkeley researchers are finding many of the same red flags blamed for the crisis: banks making subprime loans and trading risky securities. Congress just voted to scale back many Dodd-Frank provisions. Does another recession lie around the corner?

Cover page of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Update: California Expansion, Federal Inaction

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Update: California Expansion, Federal Inaction


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is now the primary anti-poverty program in the U.S., but it has not kept up with wage stagnation. Berkeley faculty recently proposed an increase in the federal EITC, California has adopted an expansion of its own state EITC, and Congress passed a tax bill that fails to help EITC recipients.

Cover page of State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap

State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap


#MeToo and #TimesUp protests about the treatment of women in the workplace have brought renewed attention to gender pay equity. This brief looks at three legislative solutions that aim to close the gap by increasing pay transparency and pushing employers to set salaries to the position, not the history of the person doing the job.