This is an interview question that I came across, and I'm not sure how to answer it.

There are two ways of phrasing a causal question:

  1. If someone has a high salary, was it because they had a high education level? I'd say this is false because it assumes that education level is the exclusive factor affecting salary - it could've also been due to luck or connections, etc.
  2. If someone has a high education level, will that result in them getting a high salary? This is the question I'm struggling with

Right off the bat, both are definitely correlated. So my thoughts are currently like this:

  1. I know that there are confounding factors present, like a person's intelligence, or persistence level, or luck, and so on
  2. My gut instinct is that the answer to the second causal question should be yes, because I can imagine a causal chain going like this: Intelligence + Persistence + Luck + a bunch of unexplained factors --> High education level. And then high education level + years of experience + job market/industry + luck + a bunch of unexplained factors --> high salary. So I can say that high education level at least partially causes high salary.

Anything in the above that I've missed or got wrong? Any other considerations I should be accounting for? The way to definitively prove (and measure) a causal link between high education level and salary would probably be to design a randomized control experiment while blocking for factors like industry and years of experiment, but I'm not sure since I'm completely new to causal analysis and design of experiments.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.