President & CEO
Washington Center for Equitable Growth
Follow Michelle on Twitter @mlholder999.
Michelle Holder is the president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. She joined Equitable Growth in September 2021. Holder also is an associate professor of economics at John Jay College, City University of New York, where she is currently on academic leave. Her research focuses on the Black community and women of color in the U.S. labor market. Named one of 19 Black economists to watch by Fortune magazine, Holder has authored two books, Afro-Latinos in the U.S. Economy, published in May 2021, and African American Men and the Labor Market during the Great Recession, published in 2017.
Emblematic of her research focus is her March 2020 report, “The ‘Double Gap’ and the Bottom Line: African American Women’s Wage Gap and Corporate Profits.” Holder estimates this double gender and race wage gap costs Black women workers approximately $50 billion in involuntarily forfeited earnings—a large and recurring annual loss to the Black community.
Most recently, research co-authored by Holder was published in March 2021 in Feminist Economics, titled “The Early Impact of COVID-19 on Job Losses Among Black Women in the U.S.” This research, co-authored with Janelle Jones and Thomas Masterson, draws upon feminist economics and stratification economics theories to quantify the job losses Black women experienced during the early phase of the pandemic. The study finds that the two jobs most frequently lost by Black women in the early months of the pandemic were cashier positions in the hotel and restaurant industry, including fast food restaurants, and child care worker positions in the healthcare and social services industry. The research suggests Black women disproportionately lost these jobs because of their strong attachment to the U.S. workforce, their overrepresentation in the aforementioned industries, and women’s overall overrepresentation in low-wage occupations.
Prior to joining CUNY, Holder spent a decade working as an applied economist in the nonprofit and government sectors. She was a senior labor market analyst at the Community Service Society of New York from 2010 to 2014, where she published three key policy research papers:
- “Upgrading Security: Unionization and Changes in the Workforce, Wages, and Standards in the NYC Security Industry, 2004-2011,” co-authored with Nancy Rankin
- “Women, Blacks, and Older Workers Struggle in Post-Recession
New York City”
- “Unemployment in New York City during the Recession and Early Recovery”
From 1995 to 1998, she was an associate financial analyst and economist at the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Her past work at the state and local level is reflected today as different regions of the United States continue to recover unevenly from the coronavirus recession due to enduring racial, ethnic, and gender stratification of the economy stemming from longstanding inequities.
Holder also served as finance director at Dēmos from 1999 to 2006, as part of the founding staff at the organization. At the nonprofit advocacy organization, she oversaw all aspects of its multimillion-dollar budget after developing its finance unit from the ground up.
Holder earned a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from the New School for Social Research, an M.P.A. from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in economics from Fordham University. Born and raised in New York City, Holder has two daughters and brings her lived experience as a second-generation immigrant, first-generation college graduate, and working mother to her research, her policy proposals, and her workplaces.
Holder is regularly featured in media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Financial Times, Vox, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, and CNN. Recent articles that highlight her work on racial and gender stratification amid the coronavirus pandemic are “The kids might be alright, but what about the moms?,” published in The Hill in October 2020, and “Before COVID-19, Corporate America Shortchanged Black Women $50 Billion Annually: Why All Women Should Care,” published in Ms. Magazine online in May 2020.