Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Scott J. Adams

Committee Members

John S. Heywood, Scott Drewianka, Jangsu Yoon


cannabis, crime, discrimination, employment, expungement, marriage


In my dissertation, I explore two distinct yet interconnected aspects of criminal justice reform and their causal effects on labor market outcomes. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I study the impact of automatic expungement laws, including Clean Slate and laws providing expungement for cannabis-related offenses, on employment. These laws erased millions of criminal records and improved opportunities for the previously convicted. However, the implementation of this policy might have adverse effects on disadvantaged demographic groups overall. When risk-averse employers realize that there are many people in the labor market whose criminal background cannot be observed because of automatic expungement, they might employ statistical discrimination and hesitate to hire job applicants from demographic groups that are likely to include the majority of ex-offenders---particularly Blacks with less education. Exploiting the variation of policies across states, I find that automatic expungement laws decrease the probability of employment by 3.99 percentage points (-7.79%) for Black people with no college education. The magnitude of the effect is highest when the sample is restricted to younger Black individuals with no high school diploma.

In the second chapter of my dissertation, I focus on the effect of recreational cannabis laws on Black women's marriage. The incarceration rate of Black men has increased since the war on drugs began in the 1970s. This has coincided with a decline in the marriage rate for Black women. In this paper, I test this link directly by using the relaxation of existing cannabis legislation over the past decade, which has led to a reduction in the drug-related arrests of Blacks. Also, I present the difference-in-differences estimation results that show that legalizing recreational cannabis increases the odds of marriage for Black women without college education.

Available for download on Monday, May 26, 2025