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In the shadow of a newly released jobs report showing continued anemic employment growth in the U.S. in August, economists gathered at an AEI event Friday morning to discuss one method of attacking rampant unemployment — job training. As Harry Holzer of Georgetown University described, training programs could potentially give unemployed workers better skills and could provide employers with more encouragement to hire those workers.

However, as Betsey Stevenson of the University of Michigan pointed out, the current system of job training is uncoordinated and fragmented at both the federal and state levels, making analysis of the system incredibly difficult. Jeffrey Smith of the University of Michigan then emphasized how few metrics exist to evaluate the performance of job training programs, and how poorly organized the existing data is. Panelists agreed that job training holds an important role in the labor market, but argued that it requires expanded metrics and more accurate analysis to pinpoint how it can best be organized and implemented in the U.S.

–Emma Bennett

With unemployment and long-term joblessness at stubbornly high levels, many Americans look to job training as a way to reinvigorate the work force. The federal government currently supports over 40 different programs that provide job training and spends billions of dollars annually training and matching unemployed workers with jobs.

How effective are these training programs, and what are the best ways to organize them? What do we currently know about these programs’ performance, and how can we improve the way they are assessed and evaluated? This conference will feature three panels focused on publicly funded job training programs, their performance in the U.S. and possible reform ideas.


8:30 AM
Registration and Breakfast

8:50 AM
Opening Remarks:
Steven J. Davis, University of Chicago and AEI
9:00 AM
Panel I: Best Practices in Job Training Programs
Lawrence Katz, Harvard University
Harry Holzer, Georgetown University
Kevin A. Hassett,AEI

10:00 AM

10:15 AM
Panel II: The U.S. System of Publicly Funded Job Training
Jeffrey Smith, University of Michigan
Gary Burtless, Brookings Institution
Michael R. Strain, AEI

11:15 AM

11:30 AM
Panel III: Perspectives on Reform of Publicly Funded Job Training
Paul Decker, Mathematica Policy Research
Betsey Stevenson, University of Michigan
Kenneth Troske, University of Kentucky
Steven J. Davis, AEI

12:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Veronika Polakova at [email protected], 202.862.4880.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.


Gary Burtless holds the Whitehead Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. He researches issues such as poverty and the income distribution, public finance, aging, labor markets, social insurance and the behavioral effects of government tax and transfer policy. Burtless is co-author of “Five Years After: The Long Term Effects of Welfare-to-Work Programs” (1995), “Globaphobia: Confronting Fears about Open Trade” (1998), “Growth with Equity: Economic Policymaking for the Next Century” (1993) and “Can America Afford to Grow Old? Paying for Social Security” (1989). He served as co-editor of the Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs for five years and previously served as associate editor of the Journal of Human Resources. Burtless has written numerous scholarly and popular articles on labor markets, income distribution, pensions and the economic effects of Social Security, unemployment insurance and taxes. His recent work has assessed the impact of the 2008–2010 stimulus programs on U.S. social protection and the economy, evaluated the implications of financial market fluctuations for the design of optimal pension systems and estimated the impact of public and private health insurance on the distribution of American household incomes. Before coming to Brookings in 1981, he served as an economist in the policy and evaluation offices of the secretary of labor and the secretary of health, education and welfare. In 1993, he was visiting professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland.

Steven J. Davis studies unemployment, job displacement, business dynamics, the effect of taxes on work activity and other economics topics. He is deputy dean for the faculty and professor of international business and economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an economic adviser to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. He previously taught at Brown University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a visiting scholar at AEI, Davis studies the ways in which policy-related sources of uncertainty affect national economic performance.

Paul Decker, president and CEO of Mathematica Policy Research, is a nationally recognized expert in the design, implementation and execution of evaluations of education and workforce development pro¬grams. Driven by the belief that good policy is based on rigorous research and objective data, Decker combines his research expertise and business acumen in pursuing Mathematica’s mission to improve public well-being. As a researcher, Decker is one of the nation’s leading experts on employment and training programs targeting dislo¬cated workers and other unemployed individuals. He is president elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management and has served on the organization’s strategic planning committee and policy council.

Kevin A. Hassett is the director of economic policy studies and a senior fellow at AEI. Before joining AEI, he was a senior economist on the board of governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, an associate professor of economics and finance at the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and a policy consultant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury during the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He served as an economic adviser to the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, as chief economic adviser to Senator John McCain during the 2000 presidential primaries and as senior economic adviser to the McCain 2008 presidential campaign. Hassett also writes a column for National Review.

Harry Holzer joined the Georgetown Public Policy Institute as a professor of public policy in the fall of 2000. He served as associate dean from 2004 to 2006 and was acting dean in the fall of 2006. He is also currently a senior research fellow at the American Institutes for Research, a senior affiliate at the Urban Institute, a senior affiliate of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, a national fellow of the Program on Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard University, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is also a faculty director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. Before coming to Georgetown, Holzer served as chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor and was a professor of economics at Michigan State University and a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Holzer’s research has focused primarily on the low-wage labor market, and, in particular, on the problems associated with minority workers in urban areas. In recent years, he has examined the quality of jobs as well as workers in the labor market,  how job quality affects the employment prospects of the disadvantaged and worker inequality and insecurity more broadly. He has also written extensively about the employment problems of disadvantaged men, advancement prospects for the working poor and workforce policy more broadly.

Lawrence Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on issues in labor economics and the economics of social problems. He is the author (with Claudia Goldin) of “The Race between Education and Technology” (Harvard University Press, 2008), a history of U.S. economic inequality and the roles of technological change that examines how the pace of educational advance affects the wage structure. As the principal investigator of the long-term evaluation of the Moving to Opportunity program (a randomized housing mobility experiment), Katz has also been studying the impact of neighborhood poverty on low-income families. He is also working with Claudia Goldin on a long-term project studying the historical evolution of career and family choices and outcomes for U.S. college men and women. His past research has explored a wide range of topics including U.S. comparative wage inequality trends; the impact of globalization and technological change on the labor market; the economics of immigration, unemployment and regional labor markets; the evaluation of labor market programs; the problems of low-income neighborhoods and for-profit higher education and the social and economic consequences of the birth control pill. Katz has been the editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics since 1991 and served as the chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in 1993 and 1994.

Jeffrey Smith is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. From 1994 to 2001, he was on the faculty at the University of Western Ontario, and from 2001 to 2005, he was on the faculty at the University of Maryland. His research centers on experimental and non-experimental methods for evaluating interventions, with particular application to social and educational programs. He has also written papers examining the labor market effects of university quality and the use of statistical treatment rules to assign people to government programs. His recent publications include “Is the Threat of Reemployment Services More Effective than the Services Themselves?” (with Dan Black, Mark Berger and Brett Noel, 2003), “Does Matching Overcome LaLonde’s Critique of Nonexperimental Methods?”(with Petra Todd, 2005) and “Heterogeneous Program Impacts: Experimental Evidence from the PROGRESA Program” (with Habiba Djebbari, 2008). He has also been a consultant on evaluation issues to governments in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Betsey Stevenson is an associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She is also a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research, a fellow of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich and serves on the board of directors of the American Law and Economics Association. She served as the chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor from 2010 to 2011. Stevenson is a labor economist who has published widely in leading economics journals about the impact of public policies on the labor market, with a focus on women and families and the value of subjective well-being data for policy analysis. She is also a columnist for Bloomberg View and her thoughts on the economy are frequently covered in both print and television media.

Michael R. Strain is a research fellow at AEI. An empirical microeconomist, his research fits broadly within labor economics and public policy. Specifically, he has written on the causes of labor market earnings volatility, how earnings volatility varies across workers, the effects of single-sex classrooms on students’ education outcomes, job loss and its effects on workers and firms and the welfare effects of payday loans. Strain began his career in the research group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Before joining AEI, he managed the New York Census Research Data Center, a U.S. Census Bureau research facility. As an economist with the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies, Strain was part of the research staff of the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program.

Kenneth Troske is the senior associate dean of the Gatton College of Business, the William B. Sturgill Professor of Economics at the University of Kentucky and a research fellow with the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. Troske served as a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel whose task was to assess the existing condition of America’s financial markets and the regulatory system and closely monitor the actions of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and financial institutions to determine if their actions are in the best interest of the American economy. He is also a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Lexington Business Advisory Council. Before moving to Kentucky, Troske was an assistant professor and an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri. His primary research areas are labor and human resource economics. Troske has authored a number of widely known papers using employer-employee matched data on topics such as education, productivity, technology and discrimination. His most recent work has focused on evaluating various aspects of the Workforce Development System in the U.S., the role of human capital in promoting the economic growth of a region and the impact of tax incentives on the creation of jobs in a region. His papers have appeared in many leading journals in economics including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Labor Economics, the Journal of Human Resources, the Review of Economics and Statistics and the American Economic Review.

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