Creating Effective Education and Workforce Policies for Metropolitan Labor Markets in the U.S.

October 2011

Harry J. Holzer, Georgetown University

Download '2011-31 NPC Working Paper.pdf'.


How well do our education policies prepare America’s youth for the labor market? What challenges limit our success, and what opportunities do we have for improvements? Can public policy play a greater role in encouraging more success? I consider these questions as they apply to the unique characteristics of metropolitan areas in the U.S. Most labor markets are metropolitan in nature, with workers commuting across central-city and suburban municipalities to jobs wherever they are located. In most metro areas, jobs (especially those paying higher wages) and different groups of residents are distributed unevenly; white and minority residents and those with higher and lower incomes are often quite highly segregated from each other residentially. These characteristics of metro areas should be taken into account as we consider what kinds of education and workforce policies and reforms to implement.

This paper begins with a brief overview of the future U.S. labor market, including a review of trends in the demand for labor. In particular, I consider demand for both middle- and high-skill jobs, where the former are defined as those requiring some postsecondary education or training (broadly defined) beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, and the latter are defined as those requiring a bachelor’s or higher. I then review the challenges limiting so many young Americans as they prepare for the labor market, as well as what we know about programs and policies that might improve observed outcomes.

Education and Training Programs, Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market