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the frequency with which they check. The data show that nearly 50 percent of employers in Los

Angeles in 2001 use a private source to check criminal backgrounds of applicants, while nearly

40 percent of them use criminal justice agencies such as the attorney general office and the

police. Interestingly, only 6 percent of employers gather this information by asking the applicant

themselves. The patterns for those employers that always or sometimes check are nearly

identical to those just described, except that firms that sometimes check are slightly more likely

to use private sources and criminal justice agencies than those that always check.

The data in Figure 7 does suggest that the availability of low-cost criminal background

checking services has played a part in the increase in checking over time, especially since there

were few such services to do this checking in the early 1990s. Of course, the increasing

availability of these services may have allowed the latent demand for these services by

employers to be actualized. Moreover, this demand may have been increasing over the 1990s as

employers awareness of the growing presence of ex-offenders in the low-skill labor supply likely

increased as well.

Figure 8 shows employers responses to the question of when they conduct criminal

background checks stratified by their responses to the frequency with which they check. Figure

8 shows that the vast majority of employers who check criminal backgrounds do so before they

fill the position. About 20 percent of employers check criminal backgrounds after they have

filled the position, while a small fraction, about 5 percent, check some other time. Though not

shown here, our data also show that employers who check after they have filled the position

mostly do so during the employees’ probationary period. These patterns hold both for those

employers that check always and those that check sometimes.


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