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Cognitive Performance and Labor Market Outcomes

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  • Lin, Dajun

    (American Institutes for Research)

  • Lutter, Randall

    (University of Virginia)

  • Ruhm, Christopher J.

    (University of Virginia)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lin, Dajun & Lutter, Randall & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2016. "Cognitive Performance and Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 10075, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10075
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    3. Wiedner, Jonas & Schaeffer, Merlin, 2020. "Career trajectories into undereducation. Which skills and resources substitute formal education in the intergenerational transmission of advantage?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
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    6. Ashley Pullman & Britta Gauly & Clemens M. Lechner, 2021. "Short-term earnings mobility in the Canadian and German context: the role of cognitive skills," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 55(1), pages 1-19, December.
    7. Gong, Xiaodong & Zhu, Rong, 2019. "Cognitive abilities, non-cognitive skills, and gambling behaviors," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 51-69.
    8. de Hoyos, Rafael & Estrada, Ricardo & Vargas, María José, 2021. "What do test scores really capture? Evidence from a large-scale student assessment in Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    cognitive performance; cognitive skill; labor market outcomes; labor income; earnings; work hours;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy

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