Monday, June 16, 2008

Lead and Youth Criminality

I am no great fan of « green babble ». But this analysis is worth pondering. In the April/May issue of The NBER Digest (free on the NBER website) Linda Gorman summarizes an interesting new paper on “The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Adult Crime” (Working Paper N° 13097). The conclusion of this econometric study is that higher childhood exposure is associated with higher adult criminality, twenty years later. Controlling for other possible determinants of crime rates the author, Jessica Reyes, estimates that a large portion of the decline in the U.S. violent crime rate between 1992 and 2002, unexplained or difficult to explain, may be attributable to reductions in gasoline lead exposure.

Between 1976-80 and 1998-2002 average blood lead levels in children aged 1 to 5 decreased from 15,0 to 1,9 micrograms per deciliter, following the introduction of new regulations.
The study suggest that environmental policy can have far reaching effects on social outcomes.

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