that require significant customer contact or the handling of cash or expensive merchandise and
especially when the ability to monitor employee performance is imperfect. Finally, employers
can be held legally liable for the criminal actions of their employees, and thus fear of litigation
may substantially deter employers from hiring applicants with criminal history records (Holzer
et. al., Forthcoming; Bushway, 1996).
Though there are strong reasons to suspect that employers would be averse to hiring ex-
offenders, one concern is that our measure of demand may reflect employers’ subjective
responses to this question and therefore may not correlate with their actual behavior. Figure 2
provides some evidence on this question by showing the fraction of employers that have hired at
least one ex-offender over the past year stratified by their responses to the question concerning
willingness to consider ex-offenders.8 We do note the limitations of these comparisons as
employers willingness to accept an applicant with a criminal background into the last filled
noncollege job may be influenced by the characteristics of that job (e.g., job requires customer
contact or employer is required by law to do a background check for that job). Still, the
comparison is likely to be instructive.
Figure 2 shows that about 20 percent of employers responded that they hired at least one
ex-offender over the past year.9 To put this number in some perspective, our survey also asked
whether the firm hired as least one welfare recipient over this period. About 30 percent of
employers indicated that they did. Of course, these differences in actual hiring between ex-
8 Alternatively, we compare the current prospective overall demand for ex-offenders defined in Figure 3 with actual overall demand for ex-offenders over the past year, arguably a more direct comparison. We find that the correlation is positive (.35) and statistically significant at the 1% level of confidence.
9 Of the employers that had hired at least one an ex-offender over the past year, our survey shows that about 70 percent of these employers indicated that the ex-offenders they hired had work experience since being released from prison, and 21 percent of employers used the Work Opportunity Tax Credit when hiring them, as noted earlier. The low level of use of the WOTC in hiring ex-offenders indicates that the efficacy of these tools will be limited without more outreach to firms or assistance (from intermediaries) in helping them obtain it.