Proposes several policy and program recommendations for policymakers, staffing agencies, and reentry practitioners to increase employment rates for ex-offenders based on a survey of more than 100 employers of varying sizes and across multiple industries.

“In the summer of 2017, the [authors] conducted a series of survey-based experiments with large and small employers in a variety of industries across the country. The aim was to better understand the relative attractiveness of policies that could incentivize employers to hire people with nonviolent felony criminal records. The policy features that were considered included verifying performance and rules of conduct with previous employers, increasing the federal tax credit, reducing the minimum hour requirement of the federal tax credit, reducing the burden of filling out tax credit paperwork, guaranteeing replacement of a new hire, and discounting staffing agency costs” (p.28).

The authors conducted a modified “discrete choice experiment…, a quantitative method in which people are asked to state their preferences regarding hypothetical goods or services—or, in this case, policies. [The authors] emailed employers a survey that began with a narrative describing a situation in which the employer is hiring for an entry-level position and has two job candidates, both of whom have the technical skills for the entry-level job and one nonviolent felony conviction, but who are each supported by different policy features. [The authors] linked one set of policy features to a tax credit and a second set to a staffing agency discount. Each employer was asked to rank the candidates based on the employer’s likelihood of advancing the candidate to the next stage of recruitment for the entry-level job….Through empirical analysis of their responses…[they] identified how much more likely employers would be to consider hiring an ex-offender with a particular policy feature than without….[They] also asked follow-up questions to directly assess employers’ considerations when hiring workers with criminal records” (p.2).

“[The authors’] findings are based on 107 employers who responded to [the] survey. [The authors] obtained a response rate of 3.4 percent, which is a key limitation of this study. Employers from 34 states are included, and nearly all were from private sector firms (97 percent). The majority of respondents were from firms with fewer than 100 employees and were largely managers or owners (58 percent) and human resource professionals (21 percent)” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Breaking Down Barriers: Experiments into Policies That Might Incentivize Employers to Hire Ex-Offenders

Major Findings & Recommendations

“[F]indings on the relative benefit to employers of the policies studied suggest that staffing agencies and reentry or reintegration programs (e.g., grantees of the Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities program) could further increase the likelihood of employment for people with a criminal record if they guarantee prospective employers a replacement employee…. [R]esults also indicate that state policymakers should consider expanding post-conviction certification programs. Across both the tax credit and staffing agency discount experiments, employers demonstrate a clear preference for wanting to know whether an ex-offender job candidate has a consistent work history and verifiable positive employment references versus simply knowing whether the person follows company codes of conduct…. Another recommendation, particularly for federal policymakers, is to reduce the paperwork related to the WOTC. The likelihood that employers would advance someone with a nonviolent felony criminal record to the next recruitment round increased by 24 percent when they did not have to fill out the amount of paperwork currently required for the WOTC. Government agencies could also consider providing help to prepare and submit the forms. Lastly…ensuring reliable transportation to and from a job site for candidates with a criminal record increases the likelihood an employer will support hiring such individuals” (p.2). “Key findings” (p.1) • “With a baseline policy of a discount on a staffing agency fee set at 25 percent of the hourly wage and post-conviction certification verifying adherence to company rules or code of safe practices, 4.3 out of 10 employers would consider hiring someone with one nonviolent felony conviction. • With the same baseline policy and a guaranteed replacement worker program…that number rises to 7.3 out of 10. • With a baseline policy of a tax credit for 25 percent of a worker’s wages (up to $2,500) after a worker has put in 120 hours and a post-conviction certification verifying adherence to company rules or code of safe practices, 5.9 out of 10 employers would consider hiring someone with one nonviolent felony conviction. • With the same baseline policy and a 40-percent tax credit…up to $5,0000…the number is 7.7 employers out of 10. • With the same baseline policy and a validated work performance history, that number rises to 8.1 out of 10” (p.1). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)