The Best U.S. Cities for Fair Chance Employment

Apr 20, 2023

by United Way NCA

In the United States today, there are more than 19 million individuals living with a felony on their permanent record. Those seeking a second chance, whether it be a job or housing, are facing an uphill battle with a scarlet letter attached to their resume. Fortunately, some states and cities are taking action by enacting ban-the-box laws and policies to create a more equitable job-hunting landscape.

Ban the box, also known as fair chance employment, allows candidates to showcase their skills and qualifications during the hiring process without immediate inquiry into their past convictions. Such inquiries are postponed until after a conditional job offer is made, thereby helping to end the stigmas surrounding convicted felons or those with a criminal history.

The value of fair chance employment is increasingly being recognized, with President Biden pardoning thousands of individuals convicted of marijuana possession last year alone. In an effort to bring even more attention to the ban-the-box movement, we evaluated LinkedIn & Indeed fair chance job listings in 100 of America’s largest cities to find out which ones are prioritizing skills and competency over past convictions.

 

Key Findings

  • Only 1.53% of U.S. job listings on LinkedIn & Indeed are fair chance opportunities. On average, the U.S. has 15.8 fair chance job listings for every 1,000 job ads. 
  • Four of the top five cities with the highest percentage of fair chance job listings are located in California –– San Francisco (4.90%), Los Angeles (3.39%), San Jose (2.76%) and Sacramento (2.53%). 
  • Retail is the best industry for fair chance employment with 122.4 fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads, followed by technology (69.4), education (37.9) and healthcare (34.6).
  •  Largo, Maryland (3.01%), Alexandria, Virginia (2.92%) and Silver Spring, Maryland (2.89%) emerged as the top three cities for fair chance job listings in the National Capital Area, specifically.

 

The Top 20 U.S. Cities for Fair Chance Employment

U.S. map showcasing the top 20 U.S. cities for fair chance employment

There are several advantages to joining the ban-the-box movement. For example, implementing fair chance employment practices increases your talent pool. What’s more, companies who also hire ex-offenders are eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) — a federal tax credit granted to companies who employ those with high barriers to employment. Most importantly, ban-the-box initiatives help to alleviate racial inequalities in the workforce and create equitable economic opportunities for job hunters. 

Below, we will explore which cities have taken steps to create a more equitable hiring landscape.

Four of the top five cities with the highest percentage of fair chance job listings are located in California. San Francisco (4.90%), Los Angeles (3.39%), San Jose (2.76%) and Sacramento (2.53%) all feature a significant number of job listings that prioritize fair chance employment.

California has taken significant measures to alleviate the burden on individuals with criminal records. In 2018, they passed the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits employers with five or more employees from inquiring about a candidate’s conviction history before making a job offer. It also mandates that employers conduct an individualized assessment when considering an applicant’s criminal history, taking into account factors such as how much time has passed since the conviction and whether the conviction is directly relevant to the job in question.

San Francisco, California (4.90%) ranked first in our results with 49 fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads. San Francisco follows the criteria established by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and conducts background checks only after a conditional offer has been made.

Seattle, Washington (3.08%), which placed third on our list, passed ban-the-box laws, including a Fair Chance Employment Ordinance in 2013 that protects employees who work at least 50% of their time in Seattle. New York, New York (2.42%) and Phoenix, Arizona (2.42%) ranked sixth and seventh on our list, with 24.21 and 24.16 fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads, respectively. 

 

The Best Industries for Fair Chance Employment

Bubble chart showcasing the best industries for fair chance employment

When searching for job opportunities within specific industries, it’s worth noting that certain sectors tend to post more fair chance job listings than others.

At the top of the list is the retail industry, with 122.37 fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads. 12.24% of job listings in retail are fair chance opportunities. The technology industry follows, with 6.94% of job listings classified as fair chance.

Surprisingly, the education (3.79%) and healthcare (3.46%) sectors rank third and fourth, respectively. With current hiring shortages across industries, employers may be more inclined to consider applicants with a record. Indeed Hiring Lab reported a 31% increase in fair chance job postings since May 2019.

For those seeking fair chance opportunities with the potential for a six-figure salary ($100K+ annually), industries with the most significant number of such opportunities per 1,000 job ads are consumer services, healthcare and education.

 

Fair Chance Employment in the National Capital Area

A map of the DMV area showcases fair chance employment

We focused on the National Capital Area, comprising the District of Columbia as well as specific counties within Maryland and Virginia, to examine what fair chance employment looks like in the heart of our nation’s capital. Largo, Maryland (3.01%), Alexandria, Virginia (2.92%) and Silver Spring, Maryland (2.89%) emerged as the top three cities for fair chance job listings in our area. 

Alexandria has 29.2 fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads, surpassing the national average by 84%. Alexandria is also among several ban-the-box cities that conduct a background check only after a conditional offer of employment is made or finalists for the position are selected. 

Bethesda, Maryland (2.83%) and Arlington, Virginia, (2.79%) rank fourth and fifth on our list, respectively, in terms of job postings that prioritize fair chance employment. Further, two of the highest-rated fair chance companies (per Glassdoor ratings) are headquartered in Bethesda –– Lockheed Martin and Marriott International.

 

The Highest-Rated Fair Chance Companies

Of the companies that have implemented fair-chance employment practices, we wanted to explore what their employees thought about working there. Using Glassdoor, we discovered the highest-rated fair-chance companies by sourcing employee reviews and star ratings.

At the top of our list is Dropbox, a file hosting service, with an impressive Glassdoor star rating of 4.6 out of 5. Dropbox implements equitable and inclusive hiring practices and releases an annual diversity report outlining their goals to create a welcoming workplace for all employees.

Experian, Google, and Microsoft tied for second place, all with Glassdoor star ratings of 4.4. Google has gone a step further, allocating over $8 million to support job seekers impacted by the justice system with digital skills training and automatic record clearance. Just because someone has a criminal record, it should not be a roadblock to securing employment.

Delta Airlines came in third place with a Glassdoor star rating of 4.3 out of 5.

 

Closing Thoughts

Ban the box states recognize the importance of giving individuals an opportunity to allow their skills and qualifications to speak louder than their past convictions. At United Way NCA, we believe in creating economic opportunities for everyone — regardless of race, gender, income or ability. Learn more about our programs and how we provide assistance to communities in need.

United Way NCA’s ALICE Lives Here initiative addresses the issues of inequity related to employment in addition to housing, education, health, food access and financial stability in the National Capital Area. The program aims to raise awareness about the everyday struggles faced by households above the Federal Poverty Line who still cannot afford necessities such as housing, food, health care and child care. The goal of the initiative is to make the National Capital Area a better place to live for all residents by addressing these issues and working toward a more equitable community.

 

Methodology

In March 2023, we collected data on the number of fair chance job listings per 1,000 job ads and the percentage of fair chance job listings from LinkedIn and Indeed in America’s 100 largest cities. We calculated the average for both metrics from the data obtained from both job databases, as they offer “fair chance” filters on their platforms.

 

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