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

61 Pages Posted: 8 May 2017 Last revised: 2 Dec 2021

See all articles by Anna Aizer

Anna Aizer

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Janet Currie

Princeton University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: May 2017

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

Aizer, Anna and Currie, Janet, Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records (May 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23392, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2964688

Anna Aizer (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Providence, RI 02912
United States
401-863-3836 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Janet Currie

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
6092587393 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~jcurrie

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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