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employers indicate that they would “probably not” or “definitely not” be willing to hire an

applicant with a criminal record. Only about 20 percent of employers indicate that they would

definitely or probably consider an applicant with a criminal history. On the other hand, about 35

percent of employers indicate that their response depends on the crime of the applicant, the

modal response.

These figures, while not directly comparable to those from a survey done in the early

1990s, suggest that employer willingness to accept applicants with criminal histories did not

increase significantly over the 1990s during the economic boom.6 Of course, employer

willingness to hire offenders in these data appear to be dampened by the events of September 11

(as we indicate below), and perhaps also by the economic downturn that was growing in

seriousness while the survey was in the field. On the other hand, earlier comparisons between

data from 1992-94 and 1998-99 also suggested little increase in employer willingness to hire this

group over the decade.7 The apparent lack of increase in demand for ex-offenders while the labor

market tightened might reflect the continuing shrinking of those sectors (such as manufacturing

and blue-collar jobs) where such demand is relatively high (as we note below).

To put the current survey responses into greater perspective, our survey also asked about

employer responses to similarly worded questions concerning the likelihood that employers

would accept applications from other groups of low-skilled and possibly stigmatized workers –


6 Similarly worded questions are included in our earlier employer survey during 1992-94 for Los Angeles. However, our current survey is slightly different; it includes a “depends on the crime” response, while our previous survey does not. Still, if we examine the extreme response categories to this question, we find that in Los Angeles for both 1992-94 and 2001 about 20% of employers indicate that they will absolutely not accept ex-offender applicants. Alternatively, 13 percent of employers in 1992-94 indicate that they definitely will accept ex-offender applicants, while 5 percent of employers responded this way in 2001.

7 See Holzer, et. al. (Forthcoming, 2002a). Those data showed little increases in willingness to hire within the Detroit or Los Angeles metropolitan areas, but significantly more willingness to hire in Milwaukee than elsewhere. While some of the differences between Milwaukee and other areas might reflect the extreme tightness of the labor


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