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The Long-term Effects of Early Lead Exposure: Evidence from a case of Environmental Negligence

Author

Listed:
  • Tomás Rau
  • Loreto Reyes
  • Sergio S. Urzúa

Abstract

This paper estimates the effect of early lead exposure on academic achievement and adult earnings. We analyze longitudinal information from individuals attending primary and secondary schools in the city of Arica (in northern Chile). Between 1984 and 1989, Arica received more than 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals containing high concentrations of lead. Initially, the chemical waste was located several kilometers from the city. However, Arica's rapid expansion, which included the construction of housing projects just meters away from the waste deposit, put a large number of families at risk. Our data include information on residential proximity to the polluted area, levels of lead exposure, comprehensive demographic information, nationally representative academic test scores and administrative data on adult earnings. We document a strong relationship between blood lead levels and student academic performance. We find that an increase of one microgram of lead per deciliter of blood reduces math and language scores by 0.15 and 0.21 standard deviations, respectively. For earnings, we estimate that for each extra microgram of lead, monthly earnings decrease by CLP 11,458 (or USD 22.92). This translates into a reduction of USD 6,000 in lifetime earnings per microgram of lead per deciliter of blood.

Suggested Citation

  • Tomás Rau & Loreto Reyes & Sergio S. Urzúa, 2013. "The Long-term Effects of Early Lead Exposure: Evidence from a case of Environmental Negligence," NBER Working Papers 18915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18915
    Note: CH DEV EEE
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18915.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raimundo Soto & Arístides Torche, 2004. "Spatial Inequality, Migration and Economic Growth in Chile," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 41(124), pages 401-424.
    2. Janet Currie & Reed Walker, 2011. "Traffic Congestion and Infant Health: Evidence from E-ZPass," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 65-90, January.
    3. Karen Clay & Werner Troesken & Michael Haines, 2006. "Lead Pipes and Child Mortality," NBER Working Papers 12603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sebastián J. Miller & Mauricio A. Vela, 2013. "The Effects of Air Pollution on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from Chile," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4756, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. repec:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/691465 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Adam Isen & Maya Rossin-Slater & W. Reed Walker, 2017. "Every Breath You Take—Every Dollar You’ll Make: The Long-Term Consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(3), pages 848-902.
    4. 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).
    5. Christopher Hansman & Jonas Hjort & Gianmarco León, 2015. "Firm's response and unintended health consequences of industrial regulations," Economics Working Papers 1469, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • J17 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Value of Life; Foregone Income
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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