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What does the Increase in Demand for Justice-Impacted Workers Mean?

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

  • Businesses are more willing to work with justice-involved people if they know that they successfully completed a workforce training program or have some form of previous work experience.

  • Limiting the length of time that a background check extends can substantially increase the demand for workers with criminal records.

  • On average, hiring managers overestimate the likelihood of a low-performance rating or no-show of an employee with a past conviction and underestimate the likelihood of those employees earning a five-star rating.


In the summer of 2022, Harvard Business School published a working paper exploring how employers conduct and leverage criminal background checks. Hiring managers at 1,000 businesses were asked whether they would consider and hire Workers with a Criminal Record (WCs) given the availability and demand for employees.

Results from the experiment found that businesses that are willing to hire WCs are similar in terms of hiring manager experience and business size to those employers who are less willing to hire WCs. Still, those that are willing to hire WCs are also more likely to say that they want to hire the best candidate regardless of criminal history and that they want to give people a second chance. These businesses are also more confident that WCs will perform well and less concerned that WCs will put others at risk, steal, or cause damage while on the job. These patterns generally hold regardless of financial incentives or subsidy offers, suggesting that wage subsidies do not substantially change the mix of businesses willing to hire WCs.

Furthermore, results suggest that policymakers may affect WC demand by directly addressing the underlying reasons that employers choose to conduct background checks, rather than simply prohibiting or delaying questions about job applicants' arrest and conviction records during the hiring process.

To read the full study and learn more about the researcher's findings, please view the study here.


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