MONDAY, Sept. 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Hiring people with criminal records may offer a short-term pay off, at least in customer service jobs, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., collected data on nearly 59,000 people hired for sales or customer service jobs in U.S. call centers from May 2008 to January 2014.
They found employees with a criminal record stayed an average of 19 days longer than those who did not have one.
"Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to receive an offer of employment," said researcher Deborah Weiss.
"Six months after release from prison, 50 to 80 percent of the formerly incarcerated remain unemployed. Some of those who are offered employment may stay longer because they have no other options, and others may feel a sense of loyalty or gratitude to an employer who has given them a second chance," she said.
The researchers cautioned that the study only used data from people working in sales and customer service, which may limit the results to these jobs. In addition, the nature of the study cannot prove if service jobs are the only reason for longer employment.
Weiss and her colleagues found that employees with criminal records had 34 percent higher odds of misconduct in sales jobs, but not in service jobs. This may mean that employees with criminal records do better and stay longer in customer service jobs than sales jobs.
Despite the higher misconduct rate, sales employees with a criminal record may be good investments for employers. Hiring a worker with a criminal record for sales jobs increases the expected cost of theft by about $43, but saves the same employer about $746 in turnover costs, the researchers said.
The report was published Sept. 11 in the journal IZA Journal of Labor Policy.
"Finding gainful employment for individuals with a criminal background is an important public priority: without such employment, reoffending is almost inevitable," Weiss said in a journal news release.
The findings suggest "there are unexploited opportunities to hiring applicants with a record in a way that makes sense both on efficiency and on moral grounds," she said.
For more on employment for ex-offenders, visit the U.S. Department of Labor.