Eli Ginzberg was born in New York, New York and earned an A.B., an A.M., and a Ph.D. from Columbia University between 1931 and 1934. He was son of the famous Louis Ginzberg, Professor of Talmud, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.
Ginzberg became a professor of economics at Columbia University in 1935. It was in this capacity that he became acquainted with General Dwight D. Eisenhower shortly after Eisenhower assumed the presidency there in 1948. Ginzberg and Eisenhower envisioned a project that would undertake extensive research of the military records documenting the rejection of two million men from active duty during World War II, with the intention of applying the findings to a variety of manpower problems in both military and civilian life. The Conservation of Human Resources Project became the fulfillment of that vision in 1950 when adequate funds were raised to get the study off of the ground.." Having helped in the initiation of the project, Eisenhower secured Ginzberg’s position as director of the project and placed Howard M. Snyder on the project’s staff as an advisor prior to his departure from Columbia. Snyder came to replace Eisenhower as the chief fundraiser for the CHR project in the years that followed. He also came to be Eisenhower’s continuing link to the project, often serving as a liaison between Ginzberg and the president.