This article compares the degree to which educational attainment and cognitive skill, individually and together, serve to explain labor force outcomes (occupational status and earnings). Although the same antecedent factors affect both of them and they both are associated with labor force outcomes, they are not redundant measures. They are affected in different ways by antecedent factors (social origins, ethnicity, and native language), act as independent mediators of the antecedent factors' effects on labor force outcomes, and separately serve to explain those labor force outcomes. Detailed analyses of subsamples of whites, blacks, and Hispanics point up differences in the relative importance of educational attainment and cognitive skill in explaining the labor force outcomes of men and women in the three groups. Both educational attainment and cognitive skill contribute independently in all three groups but in different ways and to different degrees.
Education, cognitive skill, and labor force outcomes