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manufacturing, construction and transportation industries is correlated with their actual hiring of

these people.

The results further show that employer tendencies to check criminal backgrounds have

increased over the 1990s and perhaps in response to the events of September 11. Over the

1990s, this increase in checking occurred most dramatically in retail trade, manufacturing,

suburban and large firms. However, when we account for the proportion of firms across the

different establishment characteristics, we find that much of this increase in checking was driven

by service firms – where, of course, most current and future employment growth will occur.

This increase in checking is appears to be driven at least partly by legal requirements to do so. In

fact, our results show that about half of firms that check criminal backgrounds indicate that they

do so because they are legally required. A near majority of firms use private services when they

conduct criminal background checks, and over half of employers check before they hire an


The latter results are interesting and raise a number of important questions. For instance,

how accurate is the criminal history information that is provided by private services, many of

whom are internet-based? Do such services provide information on arrest, conviction or

imprisonment? Are the apparent effects of September 11 on decreasing employers’ willingness

to hire ex-offenders and increasing the frequency with which they check backgrounds relatively

short-lived or long-term trends?

These findings suggest a number of important implications for policy as well. For

instance, some advocates seek to suppress the information to which employers have access

regarding criminal records. But it is possible that the provision of more information to these

firms will increase their general willingness to hire young black men, since we have previously


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