In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned jobs 19 times, repeating it more than any other word with any policy implications. “Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999,” he said in his opening remarks. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the GOP rebuttal, using the word at nearly twice the rate, in admittedly less rosy terms.
Focusing on jobs in political speeches isn’t news. After all, the unemployment rate tends to dictate the terms of a campaign and the outcome of an election. But while the State of the Union from both party leaders tackled employment with nods to education, technology and globalization, they ignored a lesser-known issue haunting the job prospects of at least 70 million Americans: criminal records.
According to the National Employment Law Project, one out of every four adult Americans has a criminal record, a broad term covering everything from violent crime to arrest without a conviction. But for most employers, the devil isn’t in the details—simply having a criminal record can often be enough to have your resume dismissed by employers, leaving you without options to earn a stable income.
The result is that a significant chunk of working-age adults, particularly communities of color, are barred—by law or stigma—from contributing to the economy.
Read More What We Don’t Mention About Unemployment.