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

Listed author(s):
  • Anna Aizer
  • Janet Currie

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23392.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23392.

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Date of creation: May 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23392
Note: CH ED EEE HE LS PE
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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, July.
  2. 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, 07.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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