NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Cognitive Performance and Labor Market Outcomes

Dajun Lin, Randall Lutter, Christopher J. Ruhm

NBER Working Paper No. 22470
Issued in July 2016
NBER Program(s):   LS   PE

We use information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and supplementary data sources to examine how cognitive performance, measured at approximately the end of secondary schooling, is related to the labor market outcomes of 20 through 50 year olds. Our estimates control for a wide array of individual and family background characteristics, a limited set of non-cognitive attributes, survey year dummy variables and, sometimes, geographic place effects. The analysis reveals five main findings. First, cognitive performance is positively associated with future labor market outcomes at all ages. The relationship is attenuated but not eliminated by the addition of controls for non-cognitive characteristics, while the inclusion of place effects does not change the estimated associations. Second, the returns to cognitive skill increase with age. Third, the effect on total incomes reflects a combination of positive impacts of cognitive performance for both hourly wages and annual work hours. Fourth, the returns to cognitive skill are greater for women than men and for blacks and Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites, with differential effects on work hours being more important than corresponding changes in hourly wages. Fifth, the average gains in lifetime incomes predicted to result from greater levels of cognitive performance are only slightly above those reported in prior studies but the effects are heterogeneous, with larger relative and absolute increases, in most models, for nonwhites or Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites, and higher relative but not absolute returns for women than men.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22470

 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us