Increasing the Demand for Workers with a Criminal Record

64 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2021

See all articles by Zoe Cullen

Zoe Cullen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Will Dobbie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Mitchell Hoffman

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 30, 2021

Abstract

State and local policies increasingly restrict employers’ access to criminal records, but without addressing the underlying reasons that employers may conduct criminal background checks. Employers may thus still want to ask about a job applicant’s criminal record later in the hiring process or make inaccurate judgments based on an applicant’s demographic characteristics. In this paper, we use a field experiment conducted in partnership with a nationwide staffing platform to test policies that more directly address the reasons that employers may conduct criminal background checks. The experiment asked hiring managers at nearly a thousand U.S. businesses to make actual hiring decisions under different randomized conditions. We find that 39% of businesses in our sample are willing to work with individuals with a criminal record at baseline, which rises to over 50% when businesses are offered crime and safety insurance, a single performance review, a background check covering just the past year, or objective information on the productivity of these individuals. Wage subsidies can achieve similar increases but at a substantially higher cost. Based on our findings, the staffing platform relaxed the criminal background check requirement and offered crime and safety insurance to interested businesses.

Suggested Citation

Cullen, Zoe and Dobbie, Will and Hoffman, Mitchell, Increasing the Demand for Workers with a Criminal Record (September 30, 2021). Harvard Business School Research Paper Series No. 22-023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3944934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3944934

Zoe Cullen (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=879471

Will Dobbie

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mitchell Hoffman

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S1S4
Canada
6503802822 (Phone)
M5S2J6 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/mhoffman2

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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