The gendering of criminal stigma: an experiment testing the effects of race/ethnicity and incarceration on women's entry-level job prospects
Over the past 40 years, the rate at which women are incarcerated has increased dramatically. Of the 111,000-plus female inmates currently in prison, most will be returned to the community and reenter the labor market. Despite its significance in prisoner reentry and in how ex-offenders remain crime-free, previous research finds that employers are unwilling to hire employees with a criminal record. Moreover, Pager (2003) and Pager, Western, and Bonikowski (2009) found that White job applicants with a prison record were more likely to be interviewed or hired than Black or Hispanic applicants without a record. These troubling findings regarding the effect of race/ethnicity, however, are from research that focuses on men's employment. Given the already low job prospects of ex-prisoners makes it more difficult for women with a prison record to find employment, who also face labor market barriers on account of their race/ethnicity and gender. This dissertation research uses two audit methods with an experimental design to examine the independent and interaction effects of race/ethnicity and incarceration on the likelihood women job applicants will advance through the hiring process. Job applications were submitted online and in-person. The effect of race/ethnicity varied by the method used to apply for jobs. When applying for jobs online, Black women had lower odds of employment than White women. Hispanic women, however, had higher odds of employment than White women when food service jobs were applied for in-person. The effect of a prison record was significant in both experiments; the effect was direct online, but conditioned by ethnicity in-person. Hispanic women with a prison record were less likely than White women with a prison record to advance through the hiring process. The results point to the importance of understanding how women are disadvantaged by incarceration and how mass incarceration contributes to racial/ethnic inequality through its effect in the labor market. Several recommendations follow for future research and policies concerning prisoner reentry and the use of criminal record information by employers.