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Cognitive disparities, lead plumbing, and water chemistry: Prior exposure to water-borne lead and intelligence test scores among World War Two U.S. Army enlistees

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  • Ferrie, Joseph P.
  • Rolf, Karen
  • Troesken, Werner

Abstract

Higher prior exposure to water-borne lead among male World War Two U.S. Army enlistees was associated with lower intelligence test scores. Exposure was proxied by urban residence and the water pH levels of the cities where enlistees lived in 1930. Army General Classification Test scores were six points lower (nearly 1/3 standard deviation) where pH was 6 (so the water lead concentration for a given amount of lead piping was higher) than where pH was 7 (so the concentration was lower). This difference rose with time exposed. At this time, the dangers of exposure to lead in water were not widely known and lead was ubiquitous in water systems, so these results are not likely the effect of individuals selecting into locations with different levels of exposure.

Suggested Citation

  • Ferrie, Joseph P. & Rolf, Karen & Troesken, Werner, 2012. "Cognitive disparities, lead plumbing, and water chemistry: Prior exposure to water-borne lead and intelligence test scores among World War Two U.S. Army enlistees," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 98-111.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:10:y:2012:i:1:p:98-111
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2011.09.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2014. "Lead Exposure and Behavior: Effects on Antisocial and Risky Behavior among Children and Adolescents," NBER Working Papers 20366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Kim, Younoh & Knowles, Scott & Manley, James & Radoias, Vlad, 2017. "Long-run health consequences of air pollution: Evidence from Indonesia's forest fires of 1997," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 186-198.
    3. Celeste K. Carruthers & Marianne H. Wanamaker, 2017. "Separate and Unequal in the Labor Market: Human Capital and the Jim Crow Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 655-696.
    4. Feigenbaum, James J. & Muller, Christopher, 2016. "Lead exposure and violent crime in the early twentieth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 51-86.
    5. Aggeborn, Linuz & Öhman, Mattias, 2017. "The Effects of Fluoride in the Drinking Water," Working Paper Series 2017:20, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    6. William J. Collins & Marianne H. Wanamaker, 2017. "Up from Slavery? African American Intergenerational Economic Mobility Since 1880," NBER Working Papers 23395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Anna Aizer & Janet Currie, 2017. "Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records," NBER Working Papers 23392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Nathaniel Hilger, 2016. "Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans," NBER Working Papers 22748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Billings, Stephen B. & Schnepel, Kevin T., 2017. "Life After Lead: Effects of Early Interventions for Children Exposed to Lead," IZA Discussion Papers 10872, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Lead exposure; IQ; Intelligence; Early-life conditions;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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