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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.

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