The perspective developed here focuses on the crucial role of cognitive skills, or achievement. Cognitive skills, rather than mere school attainment, are powerfully related to individual earnings, to the distribution of income, and, most important, to economic growth. Realizing the magnitude of these relationships is essential to understanding both the challenges and the opportunities facing the United States. Even though this chapter is motivated by locational patterns and how these patterns fit into the distribution of economic outcomes, much of what follows is not based directly on evidence that is grounded in location. There is a reason for this: much of the relevant data about educational outcomes and about factors that influence these outcomes is not consistently provided by location but by race. As a result, the discussion, particularly when talking about education policies, tends to move back and forth between location, race, and ethnicity.