NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Lead Policy and Academic Performance: Insights from Massachusetts

Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

NBER Working Paper No. 18327
Issued in August 2012
NBER Program(s):   AG   CH   ED   EEE   HE

Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can adversely affect neurodevelopment, behavior, and cognitive performance. This paper investigates the link between lead exposure and student achievement in Massachusetts. Panel data analysis is conducted at the school-cohort level for children born between 1991 and 2000 and attending 3rd and 4th grades between 2000 and 2009 at more than 1,000 public elementary schools in the state. Massachusetts is well-suited for this analysis both because it has been a leader in the reduction of childhood lead levels and also because it has mandated standardized achievement tests in public elementary schools for almost two decades. The paper finds that elevated levels of blood lead in early childhood adversely impact standardized test performance, even when controlling for community and school characteristics. The results imply that public health policy that reduced childhood lead levels in the 1990s was responsible for modest but statistically significant improvements in test performance in the 2000s, lowering the share of children scoring unsatisfactory on standardized tests by 1 to 2 percentage points. Public health policy targeting lead thus has clear potential to improve academic performance, with particular promise for children in low income communities.

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Acknowledgments

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18327

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Callison and Kaestner w18326 Do Higher Tobacco Taxes Reduce Adult Smoking? New Evidence of the Effect of Recent Cigarette Tax Increases on Adult Smoking
Forbes and Warnock w18329 Debt- and Equity-Led Capital Flow Episodes
Meyer and Wherry w18309 Saving Teens: Using a Policy Discontinuity to Estimate the Effects of Medicaid Eligibility
Sahin, Song, Topa, and Violante w18265 Mismatch Unemployment
Fang, Eggleston, Rizzo, Rozelle, and Zeckhauser w18189 The Returns to Education in China: Evidence from the 1986 Compulsory Education Law
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us