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Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

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  • Anna Aizer
  • Janet Currie

Abstract

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23392
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, January.
    2. Nevin, Rick, 2007. "Understanding international crime trends: The legacy of preschool lead exposure," MPRA Paper 35338, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2015. "Lead Exposure And Behavior: Effects On Antisocial And Risky Behavior Among Children And Adolescents," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(3), pages 1580-1605, July.
    4. Nevin, Rick, 1999. "How lead exposure relates to temporal changes in IQ, violent crime, and unwed pregnancy," MPRA Paper 35324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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).
    9. Reyes Jessica Wolpaw, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-43, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel S. Grossman & David J.G. Slusky, 2017. "The Effect of an Increase in Lead in the Water System on Fertility and Birth Outcomes: The Case of Flint, Michigan," WORKING PAPERS SERIES IN THEORETICAL AND APPLIED ECONOMICS 201703, University of Kansas, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2017.
    2. Elsner, Benjamin & Wozny, Florian, 2018. "The Human Capital Cost of Radiation: Long-Run Evidence from Exposure Outside the Womb," IZA Discussion Papers 11408, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • 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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