Estimating the Earnings Loss Associated with a Criminal Record and Suspended Driver’s License


There is an earning loss of $9 billion associated with the second chance sealing and second chance relicensing in Texas.

Contact with the criminal legal system and sanctions such as driver’s license suspensions can result in limited employment opportunities and have lifelong impacts on a person’s potential earnings. To advance economic interests and remove barriers to work, Texas introduced second chance laws that allow a person to have their criminal records sealed and restore occupational driver’s licenses (ODLs) to drive to work and school. However, administrative barriers, including lack of awareness, unclear criteria, burdensome application processes, and fines and fees, contribute to a gap between those who are eligible and those who are successful in obtaining record sealing and license restoration. This paper measures the annual lost earnings of paper prisons in Texas. 

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Key Findings:

  • The national average annual loss associated with misdemeanor and felony convictions is $5,100 and $6,400 per year respectively.
  • The estimated loss associated with a suspended driver’s license is $12,700 annually in Texas.
  • 95 percent of those eligible to have their record sealed have not done so.
  • 430,000 people are eligible to apply for occupational driver’s licenses and have not obtained one.
  • There is an annual earning loss of nearly $3.5 million for people who have not had their records sealed and $5.5 billion for people who have not received an ODL.
  • It would take 255 years to clear the backlog of people who are eligible for record sealing and 27 years for those eligible for an Occupational Driver’s License restoration.
  • Black people and low-income individuals are overrepresented in both driver’s license suspensions and criminal convictions compared to Texas’s population.


  • Eliminate fine and fee requirements for the administration of second chances.
  • Automate record sealing and ODLs for those that are eligible.
Colleen Chien, Alexandra George, Srihari Shekhar, and Robert Apel
Arizona Law Review