NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Toxic Truth: Lead and Fertility

Karen Clay, Margarita Portnykh, Edson Severnini

NBER Working Paper No. 24607
Issued in May 2018, Revised in September 2018
NBER Program(s):Children, Development Economics, Environment and Energy Economics, Health Care

Using U.S county level data on lead in air for 1978-1988 and lead in topsoil in the 2000s, this paper examines the causal impact of lead exposure on a critical human function with societal implications – fertility. Using instrumental variables, we find that reductions in airborne lead between 1978 and 1988 increased fertility rates and that higher lead in topsoil decreased fertility rates in the 2000s. The latter finding is particularly concerning, because it suggests that lead may continue to impair fertility today, both in the United States and in other countries that have significant amounts of lead in topsoil.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24607

 
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