Three observations on wages and measured cognitive ability

  • Cawley J
  • Heckman J
  • Vytlacil E
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Abstract

This paper summarizes our recent research on the relationship between wages and measured cognitive ability. In it, we make three main points. First, we find that wage payment by ability does vary across race and gender in the US, and that the fraction of wage variance explained by cognitive ability is modest. Second, measured cognitive ability and schooling are so highly correlated that one cannot separate their effects without imposing strong, arbitrary parametric structure in estimation which, when tested, is rejected by the data. Third, controlling for cognitive ability, personality traits (socialization skills) are correlated with earnings, although they primarily operate through schooling attainment. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cognitive ability
  • J24
  • J31
  • Returns to education
  • Wage differentials

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Authors

  • John Cawley

  • James Heckman

  • Edward Vytlacil

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