More than half of unemployed American men in their 30s have a history of being arrested or convicted of a crime, a stigma that poses a barrier to them participating in the nation's labor force, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

By age 35, 64% of unemployed men have been arrested and 46% have been convicted of a crime, with the rates varying only slightly by race and ethnicity.

Researchers say the findings, published by the journal Science Advances, suggest that employment services should focus more on the special challenges facing the unemployed who have criminal history records.

“Employers need to understand that one big reason they cannot find the workers they need is too often they exclude those who have had involvement with the criminal justice system,” said Shawn Bushway, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Employers need to reconsider their protocols about how to respond when applicants have some type of criminal history.”

While there has been much research documenting unemployment among those who have been incarcerated, the RAND study is the first to estimate the incidence of criminal histories among American men who are unemployed.

It's estimated that as many as one in three American adults have been arrested at some point in their life, a product of the nation's aggressive law enforcement practices over the past several decades.

Men are more likely than women to have a criminal history record, making it more difficult for them to secure employment. In addition, there are disproportionately high rates of criminal justice involvement for Black people, combined with persistent racism and discrimination, which may make it particularly difficult for Black job seekers to secure employment.

RAND researchers estimated the number of unemployed young men with criminal histories by using information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997), which follows a nationally representative group of Americans over the course of their lives. Researchers examined responses from a group of about 9,000 participants who initially were recruited in 1997, and were born during the years 1980 through 1984.

The study examined the involvement of men with the criminal justice system through 2017.

Read the full article about young men with criminal records at RAND Corporation.