Anna Aizer: Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School, and Crime Records


Monday, December 12, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


(Note!) Harvard Kennedy School: *Malkin Penthouse*

Anna AizerProfessor of Economics and Public Policy, Brown University.

Joint with Janet Currie, Princeton University,
Joseph Doyle, MIT Sloan.

Using individually linked data for RI children born between 1990 and 2004 that includes early childhood blood lead levels, in-school disciplinary infractions and arrests, we estimate the impact of early lead exposure on future delinquency. 

For identification, we exploit the fact that proximity to roadways is associated with greater exposure to lead, but that the strength of this relationship has declined over time with the de-leading of gasoline in the 1980s.  Exploiting within neighborhood variation in road proximity as an instrument for lead exposure, we find that exposure to lead is associated with a significantly greater likelihood of in-school disciplinary infractions and later criminal detention. 

The IV results are larger than those based on sibling comparisons.  We present evidence suggesting that the larger IV estimates are explained by both substantial measurement error in lead levels and larger marginal vs. average effects. 

About the speaker

Anna Aizer is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Brown University and a Faculty Research Fellow at NBER, where she co-directs the NBER Children's Program. She is a labor and health economist with interests in the area of child health and well-being.

Aizer has examined the impact of public programs on child health and well-being and the economic determinants and consequences of domestic violence. The focus of her current work is the intergenererational transmission of health and income.

In particular, she has studied how the following six aspects of the lives of impoverished families translate into worse outcomes for their children and greater likelihood of poverty in adulthood: 1) poor families’ greater exposure to violence, 2) their worse health, 3) the greater psychological strain or stress they experience, 4) the lower levels of investments in children made by poor families, 5) poor children’s interactions with the juvenile justice system and 6) disproportionate exposure to harmful environmental toxins. While these phenomena may not strike one as an obvious object of economic inquiry, Aizer shows in her work that economic concepts can help explain much of what we observe. 

Her research has been featured in Science (“The Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Maternal Disadvantage and Health at Birth”), American Economic Review (“The Long Term Impact of Cash Transfers to Poor Families”), and Quarterly Journal of Economics (“Juvenile Incarceration, Human Capital and Future Crime: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges”).

Anna Aizer arrived at Brown in 2003 after a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University's Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. She holds an M.S. from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Ph.D. in Economics from UCLA.


See also: Fall 2016