Employment opportunities for ex-offenders: A field experiment into how the type of crime and the applicants’ ethnic background affect their employment opportunities for low-educated men in the Netherlands


Previous research shows mixed results for the effect of having a criminal record on applicants’ chances in the job market. We argue that, to make sense of this mixed pattern of results and better understand the impact of having a criminal record, research should examine under which conditions the effect of having a criminal record on job seekers’ chances is smaller or larger. The current study uses an experimental design to examine the potential role of different offense types and applicants’ ethnic background. Specifically, we ask how applicants’ chances of success are influenced by prior convictions for a violent offense, a property offense or a sexual offense and by their ethnic background. Data were collected using a field experiment in the Netherlands. Applications for 520 applicants were sent out in response to job vacancies published on the internet. The results provide little evidence that a prior conviction or the type of offense affects applicants’ chances of success. By contrast, we find a strong effect of applicants’ ethnic background. In fact, ethnic minority applicants without a criminal record are found to be less likely to receive a positive reaction than majority applicants with a conviction for a violent offense.

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, accepted for publication