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Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime

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  • Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

Abstract

Childhood lead exposure can lead to psychological deficits that are strongly associated with aggressive and criminal behavior. In the late 1970s in the United States, lead was removed from gasoline under the Clean Air Act. Using the sharp state-specific reductions in lead exposure resulting from this removal, this article finds that the reduction in childhood lead exposure in the late 1970s and early 1980s is responsible for significant declines in violent crime in the 1990s, and may cause further declines into the future. The elasticity of violent crime with respect to lead is estimated to be approximately 0.8.

Suggested Citation

  • Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," NBER Working Papers 13097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13097
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. John J. Donohue, III & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    3. John J. Donohue III & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420.
    4. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
    5. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Hilton, F. G. Hank & Levinson, Arik, 1998. "Factoring the Environmental Kuznets Curve: Evidence from Automotive Lead Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 126-141, March.
    7. Roland G. Fryer & Paul S. Heaton & Steven D. Levitt & Kevin M. Murphy, 2005. "Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine," NBER Working Papers 11318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime," NBER Working Papers 10564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Lott, John R, Jr & Mustard, David B, 1997. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-68, January.
    10. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 225-258, December.
    11. Jeff Grogger & Michael Willis, 2000. "The Emergence Of Crack Cocaine And The Rise In Urban Crime Rates," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 519-529, November.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K49 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Other
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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