offenders, but also the extent to which they actually do so. In addition, we examine employer
behavior and practices that might limit the employment prospects of ex-offenders, namely the
extent to which employers check criminal backgrounds of job applicants they are considering.
This examination also considers the extent to which such checking has increased over time, the
methods that employers use to do such checking, and when they check during the hiring process.
In many instances, we also investigate the firm characteristics that correlate with these measures
of employer demand. Finally, we also examine differences in employer behaviors and attitudes
towards ex-offenders pre and post September 11.
Our data indicate a number of important findings. We find that, consistent with previous
studies, employers stated willingness to hire ex-offenders is still very limited, even relative to
other groups of disadvantaged workers (such as welfare recipients). Despite the boom of the
1990’s, employer demand for offenders does not seem to have risen much over time. Also, this
willingness appears to have been negatively affected by the events of September 11.
But employer aversion to ex-offenders seems to vary importantly with the characteristics
of the offenders. Employers report being less averse to those charged with drug or property
offenses, and more averse to those charged with a violent crime or are recently released from
prison and without work experience.
Moreover, we find evidence that employers’ stated willingness to hire ex-offenders
correlates with their actual behavior, thus putting greater confidence in our demand measures for
this group. Employer willingness to hire is highly correlated with establishment characteristics
in predictable ways that are consistent with previous research, but our work here shows that such
correlations appear to translate into their actual hiring of them. For instance, employers’
willingness to hire ex-offenders in establishments with a high percentage of unskilled jobs, or in