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Early lead exposure and outcomes in adulthood


  • Grönqvist, Hans

    (Department of economics, Uppsala university, IFAU, UCLS)

  • Nilsson, J Peter

    (Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, IFAU, UCLS)

  • Robling, Per-Olof

    (Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University,)


We exploit the phase-out of leaded gasoline to isolate the impact of early childhood lead exposure on outcomes in adulthood. By combining administrative data on school performance, high school graduation, crime, earnings, and cognitive and non-cognitive skills with a novel measure of lead exposure, we follow 800,000 children from birth into adulthood. We find that reduced lead exposure improves the adult outcomes, particularly among boys. Below certain thresholds, the relationship becomes much weaker. Non-cognitive traits (externalizing behavior, conscientiousness, and neuroti-cism) follow a similar non-linear dose response pattern and seem to be the key mediators between early lead exposure and adult outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Grönqvist, Hans & Nilsson, J Peter & Robling, Per-Olof, 2017. "Early lead exposure and outcomes in adulthood," Working Paper Series 2017:4, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2017_004

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    Cited by:

    1. Jans, Jenny & Johansson, Per & Nilsson, J. Peter, 2018. "Economic status, air quality, and child health: Evidence from inversion episodes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 220-232.
    2. Patrick Koval, 2018. "Toxic Effects of Lead Disposal in Water: An Analysis of TRI Facility Releases," Working Papers 1809, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.
    3. Gazze, Ludovica & Heissel, Jennifer, 2021. "Infrastructure upgrades and lead exposure: Do cities face trade-offs when replacing water mains?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    4. Clay, Karen & Portnykh, Margarita & Severnini, Edson, 2019. "The legacy lead deposition in soils and its impact on cognitive function in preschool-aged children in the United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 181-192.
    5. Karen Clay & Margarita Portnykh & Edson Severnini, 2021. "Toxic Truth: Lead and Fertility," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(5), pages 975-1012.
    6. Zaalberg, Ap, 2019. "The effects of nutrients and neurotoxicants on aggressive behavior," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    7. 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.
    8. Kota Ogasawara, 2021. "Technology, Institution, and Regional Growth: Evidence from Mineral Mining Industry in Industrializing Japan," Papers 2112.14514,, revised Dec 2023.

    More about this item


    environmental policy; human capital; crime; non-cognitive skills;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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