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An additional issue concerns whether employers know they have hired ex-offenders. It is

unlikely that all employers know whether they have hired ex-offenders, or the true number of

them they have hired, but there are strong reasons to believe that their errors are not large. As

we document below, about half of the employers in this survey actually check for criminal

backgrounds, and another 20 percent check sometimes. Moreover, previous work using similar

employer surveys show that a large fraction of employers (about 30 percent) have contact with

employment agencies that attempt to place disadvantaged workers, including ex-offenders, into

jobs (Holzer and Stoll, 2001). Finally, employers have incentives to know the backgrounds of

their workers to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, though there is evidence that not many

employers claim such credits.5

Finally, we explore in detail questions concerning whether and the extent to which

establishments do criminal background checking. We ask in the survey “How often do you

check the applicant’s criminal record? always, sometimes, never.” We also follow include a

series of questions concerning whether the employer checked the last filled non-college position,

whether they were legally required to do so, from what source did they get information on the

applicant’s background, and when in the hiring process did they conduct the check.

  • 3.


    • A.

      Employer Willingness to Hire and Actual Hiring of Ex-Offenders

Figure 1 presents the distribution of employer responses to the question inquiring about

the likelihood that the employer would be willing to accept an applicant with a criminal record

into their most recently filled job that did not require a college degree. Over 40 percent of

5 In fact, our survey asked of those employers who had hired an ex-offender over the last year whether they claimed the Work Opportunity Tax Credit when hiring ex-offenders and only 21 percent of employers indicated that they


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