A study was performed to test the hypothesis that among U.S. underground coal miners, the lower the number of years of school completed, the greater the 5 year decrement in pulmonary function, and the greater the 5 year incidence of respiratory symptoms beyond that explained by occupational exposures and cigarette smoking. A sample of 1116 white male underground coal miners from mines in Kentucky, Colorado and Utah was examined in 1977 and reexamined in 1982 for respiratory symptoms, respiratory function, personal history, and occupational history. Less than 12 years of school was statistically related to 5 year declines in forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in 1 second, with adjustment for baseline pulmonary function, age, smoking status and years of underground mining. The number of years of school completed was not related to the 5 year incidence of respiratory symptoms, after adjustment for baseline pulmonary function, age, smoking, and years of underground mining. Forced expiratory flow rate at 50 percent of forced vital capacity was not related to years of schooling completed after adjustment for confounding factors.