Washington (Feb. 26) – Today, roughly one in three workers in the United States are employed in the “gig economy,” also known as the “shared,” “on-demand,” or “access” economy. This new and rapidly growing sector has the potential to provide jobs to many qualified applicants that are often excluded from traditional forms of employment—particularly those who have been incarcerated.

In a new policy study R Street Director of Justice and National Security Policy, Arthur Rizer; Impact Justice Program Associate, Rachel Liebman; and R Street Justice Policy Associate, Jonathan Haggerty explore current issues with the accuracy of criminal background checks and their detrimental effects on applicants, employers and public safety. They then present the economic, social and moral arguments against the indiscriminate and inaccurate use of onerous, mandated criminal background checks. Finally, they recommend a variety of solutions to help employers make smart hiring choices while also opening up job opportunities to hundreds of thousands of qualified candidates.

A growing body of research suggests that ex-offenders make loyal and productive employees, and that employers could save substantial sums of money by simply hiring more people from this demographic. Unfairly excluding these candidates from “gig economy” jobs raises the risk that they will revert to a life of crime. In turn, this could potentially make communities less safe and would burden local governments with excessive correctional spending.

The gig economy has experienced explosive growth in recent years and will likely remain a robust alternative to traditional employment. In order to maximize its potential, policymakers should resist the urge to issue burdensome hiring requirements that may actually hamper public safety and impose significant costs on taxpayers.


Featured Publications