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might consider filling with this group of workers? yes, depends on the crime, no.” To gauge

employers’ actual hiring of ex-offenders we ask “To your knowledge, has your business in the

past year hired any men with criminal records? yes, no, do not know.”

Although the prospective measures are conceptually a cleaner measure of demand for ex-

offenders, these variables measure what employers say rather than their actual behavior. To the

extent that employers don’t actually do what they say they are willing to do, their reliability is

subject to questioning. Hence, we also include the actual (or realized) measure of hiring. On the

other hand, a weakness in this measure is that while it provides information on employers actual

behavior with respect to hiring male workers with criminal backgrounds, it is also likely to

reflect a mix of demand-side (i.e., firms) and supply- side (i.e., workers) factors that might

influence access of such workers to these firms. However, a comparison of the outcomes

observed for these two demand measures should provide greater insight into the overall demand

for male workers with criminal backgrounds.

Still, these measures of employer willingness and actual hiring of ex-offenders raise other

concerns. The first concerns the exact definition of ‘criminal background.’ For the purposes of

this study, a person has a criminal history record if they have been previously convicted of a

felony, regardless of whether the person has served time in prison. The questions in the survey

ask employers whether they would accept or have positions open that they might consider filling

with those with criminal records, so it is open ended as to whether the person served time in

prison. However, with our data, we will to some extent be able to examine the extent to which

employer responses depend on the nature of the applicant’s offense and on whether the applicant

has recently served time.


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