Harry J. Holzer

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Harry Holzer (born February 25, 1957) is an American economist, educator and public policy analyst.

He grew up in a rural area near Atlantic City, New Jersey. His parents, Simon and Suzanne (née Wester), were Holocaust survivors from Poland. His father owned and operated a small chicken farm while his mother was a seamstress and operated a fabric shop. His only sister, Marilyn, is an occupational therapist in Jerusalem, Israel. He currently resides in Chevy Chase MD with his wife, Deborah, a clinical social worker and therapist. They have 3 daughters (Simone, Hannah and Leah, aged 23, 16 and 16).

In the Clinton Administration, Holzer served as the Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Holzer is currently the John LaFarge Jr. SJ Professor of Public Policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, and an Institute Fellow at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), where he is codirector of the research program on postsecondary education and the labor market for the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER). Holzer has also been a founder and co-director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. He is currently an Affiliated Scholar at the Urban Institute in Washington DC, a Research Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Economic Studies Program. He has also served as associate dean (2004–06) and acting dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

Holzer is a member of the editorial board at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and a Research Fellow at IZA. He is a member of the board of directors for the Economic Mobility Corporation and recently served as a director for the National Skills Coalition. He has also been a professor of economics at Michigan State University (1983–2000), a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research.[1]

Holzer holds an A.B. from Harvard University in 1978 (graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and received his Ph.D. in 1983 from Harvard University in economics.


His research focuses primarily on the labor market problems of low-wage workers and other disadvantaged groups, particularly minority workers. He has long been interested in the question of how employer characteristics and hiring practices and the quality of jobs they generate, have affected job opportunities for less-skilled workers, especially when they create "mismatches" between worker skills and those sought by employers, and between their geographic locations (or "spatial mismatch").

He has studied employer data very extensively and implemented surveys of about 7000 firms during the 1990s on their hiring practices, skill needs, and workforce characteristics. He has also analyzed trends in job quality and their effects on upward mobility for low-wage workers using the LEHD data on workers and firms from the U.S. Census Bureau. Most recently, Holzer has analyzed data on postsecondary education and employment outcomes, especially for disadvantaged workers.

Holzer's current work focuses on the challenges low-income youth and adults face in American higher education and afterwards in the job market. He has written extensively about the employment problems of disadvantaged men, especially those with criminal records, the advancement prospects for the working poor, and workforce development policy broadly.[2] He has also written about welfare reform, discrimination, Affirmative Action, job training programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

His research on employment issues and policy has been funded by grants from the Joyce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Upjohn Institute, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mott Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Public Policy Institute of California.


  • The Black Youth Employment Crisis, (coedited with Richard B. Freeman). University of Chicago Press, 1986
  • Unemployment, Vacancies and Local Labor Markets. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 1989
  • What Employers Want: Job Prospects for Less-Educated Workers. Russell Sage Foundation, 1996
  • Detroit Divided. (With Reynolds Farley and Sheldon Danziger). Russell Sage Foundation, 2000
  • Employers and Welfare Recipients: The Effects of Welfare Reform in the Workplace, ed. (with Michael Stoll). Public Policy Institute of California, 2001
  • The Economics of Affirmative Action. (Co-edited with David Neumark.) Edward Algar, 2004
  • Moving Up or Moving On: Who Advances in the Low-Wage Labor Market (with Fredrik Andersson and Julia Lane). Russell Sage Foundation, 2005
  • Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men (with Peter Edelman and Paul Offner). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2006
  • Reshaping the American Workforce in a Changing Economy, (coedited with Demetra Nightingale). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2007
  • Against the Tide: Household Structure, Opportunities and Outcomes for White and Minority Youth (with Carolyn Hill and Henry Chen). W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2009
  • Where Are All the Good Jobs Going? (with Julia Lane, David Rosenblum, and Frederik Andersson). Russell Sage Foundation, 2011.
  • Making College Work: Pathways to Success Beyond High School.(with Sandy Baum) Brookings Institution Press, 2017.


Harry Holzer is the author of over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals in economics and public policy, including several articles in the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Literature, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Labor Economics and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

He has also written dozens of book chapters and many public policy briefs for the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, and has provided testimony to Congressional committees and other federal agencies on many occasions.


He is listed in Who’s Who in Economics (2003 edition) and in Marquis’ Who’s Who in America (beginning in 2008). He was the winner of the Policy Innovation Prize from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution in 2011, the Leslie Whittington Award at Georgetown University in 2002, the Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State University in 1998, and the Teacher-Scholar Award at Michigan State University in 1988.


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