they actually hire ex-offenders is correlated with the extent to which they receive applications
from groups that are overrepresented among ex-offenders.
Figure 4 provides information on whether employer willingness to hire ex-offenders
varies with offender characteristics. The survey asks employers about their willingness to hire
offenders who are recently released from prison and without work experience, and their
willingness to hire offenders by the offense committed (i.e., violent, property, or drug offense).14
Other factors that are likely to matter to employers but that are not captured in our survey include
whether the offender has multiple offenses, is on probation, or is bonded, to name a few.
The results show some predictable patterns. Employers are strongly averse to hiring ex-
offenders charged with violent offenses. Employers also seem somewhat averse to those who
are recently released from prison and without work experience, though we are unable to specify
which of these is a more important factor driving this response.
This variation by offender characteristic indicates that potential employer demand for
non-violent offenders may be substantial than previously thought. Employers are clearly less
averse to those charged with drug and property offenses. Over the 1990s, most of the dramatic
rise in the prison population was driven by increases in drug related offenses, of which a
disproportionate share were charged to young black men. Employers report being more averse
to hiring ex-offenders charged with violent crime, but violent criminals make up a smaller and
declining fraction of all offenders (Holzer, et. al., 2002a).
Thus, this variation in employer demand by category of offense could have important
implications for the employment opportunities of offenders. Specifically, it may create situations
14 These questions are asked of employers who indicated that they are currently willing to hire ex-offenders; those employers who indicated that they are currently not willing to hire ex-offenders are excluded. It is likely that their responses to their willingness to hire ex-offenders currently are influenced by the characteristics of ex-offenders as well.