Skip to content
CityLab
Economy

How Clearing Criminal Records Puts People to Work

About 70 million Americans have criminal records, and some of them struggle to find jobs decades after their offense. Advocates of expungement say it levels the playing field—and boosts the economy.
Applicants fill out forms at a job fair in Los Angeles.
Applicants fill out forms at a job fair in Los Angeles.Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

If you live in Kentucky and want to work on a farm, run an HVAC company, or interpret for the deaf community, you’d better not have a criminal record.

Those professions and more than 100 others have licensing restrictions in the state based on a person’s prior convictions, making it hard for even those with minor offenses in their history to get a job. It’s not just Kentucky—every state in the U.S. has some form of employment restriction based on criminal records.