NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Lead Exposure and Behavior: Effects on Antisocial and Risky Behavior among Children and Adolescents

Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

NBER Working Paper No. 20366
Issued in August 2014
NBER Program(s):   AG   CH   EEE   HE

It is well known that exposure to lead has numerous adverse effects on behavior and development. Using data on two cohorts of children from the NLSY, this paper investigates the effect of early childhood lead exposure on behavior problems from childhood through early adulthood. I find large negative consequences of early childhood lead exposure, in the form of an unfolding series of adverse behavioral outcomes: behavior problems as a child, pregnancy and aggression as a teen, and criminal behavior as a young adult. At the levels of lead that were the norm in United States until the late 1980s, estimated elasticities of these behaviors with respect to lead range between 0.1 and 1.0.

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This paper was revised on October 2, 2014

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20366

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