NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Do Low Levels of Blood Lead Reduce Children's Future Test Scores?

Anna Aizer, Janet Currie, Peter Simon, Patrick Vivier

NBER Working Paper No. 22558
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Environment and Energy Economics, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

We construct a unique individual-level longitudinal dataset linking preschool blood lead levels with third grade test scores for eight birth cohorts of Rhode Island children born between 1997 and 2005. Using these data, we show that reductions of lead from even historically low levels have significant positive effects on children's reading test scores in third grade. Our preferred estimates use the introduction of a lead remediation program as an instrument in order to control for the possibility of confounding and for considerable error in measured lead exposures. The estimates suggest that a one unit decrease in average blood lead levels reduces the probability of being substantially below proficient in reading by 3.1 percentage points (on a baseline of 12 percent). Moreover, as we show, poor and minority children are more likely to be exposed to lead, suggesting that lead poisoning may be one of the causes of continuing gaps in test scores between disadvantaged and other children.

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

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for 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:

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2016 number 3 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22558

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Anderson, Gallagher, and Ramirez Ritchie w23218 School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance
Berman and Matanock w21061 The Empiricists' Insurgency
Manoli and Weber w22561 The Effects of the Early Retirement Age on Retirement Decisions
Scott-Clayton and Zafar w22574 Financial Aid, Debt Management, and Socioeconomic Outcomes: Post-College Effects of Merit-Based Aid
Keen and Slemrod w22408 Optimal Tax Administration
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

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

Contact Us