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December 27, 2013

Fascinating lead-crime-rate forecast that incarceration levels will decline significantly in coming years

Regular readers know I am very intrigued by (but still at least a bit skeptical concerning) the social science research that suggest that lead exposure level better account for variations in violent crime rates than any other single variable.  Consequently, I have to link to this new item sent my way by researcher Rick Nevin, titled "It Will Not Take 88 Years to End Mass Incarceration," which responds to a recent commentary by sentencing reform advocates (noted in this post) lamenting how little incarceration rates have declined even as crime has continued its historic decline over the last decade. Without vouching for the data, I am eager to highlight Nevin's concluding sentiments in this interesting little data discussion:

Nevin (2000) showed that per capita use of lead in gasoline from 1941-1975 explained 90% of the variation in the USA violent crime rate from 1964 to 1998.  Nevin (2007) showed the same relationship between preschool lead exposure trends and violent and property crime trends in the USA, Britain, Canada, West Germany, Finland, France, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia.  The time lag in every nation reflected lead-induced neurodevelopmental damage in the first years of life affecting behavior in the late-teens and 20s when offending peaks.  The best-fit lag for burglary was 18 years, reflecting property crime arrests that have historically peaked at ages 15-20.  The best-fit for violent crime was 23 years, consistent with violent crime arrest rates that have peaked in the early-20s.

The ongoing violent crime rate decline (down 32% from 1998-2012) has been slowed by an increase in older offenders born across years of pandemic lead poisoning.  This has been slowed by an increase in older offenders born across years of pandemic lead poisoning. This rise in arrest rates for older adults has occurred even as juvenile arrest rates have fallen to record lows, due to ongoing declines in lead paint exposure over the 1990s.

The Sentencing Project and other advocates for sentencing reform need to acknowledge the extreme divergence in arrest and incarceration trends by age. Opponents of sentencing reform often assume that “mass incarceration” is a key factor behind the USA crime decline over the past two decades, but arrest and incarceration trends by age discredit that theory: The largest arrest rate declines have been recorded by younger age groups that have also recorded large incarceration rate declines, while arrest rates have increased for older age groups despite rising incarceration rates for older adults.

Arrest and incarceration trends by age also cast doubt on the theory that budget constraints and public policy reforms have been a large factor in the overall prison population decline over recent years. The declining prison population is clearly not explained by shorter prison terms or early releases for older prisoners, but by steep arrest rate declines for younger Americans. It isn’t the public policies that have changed: It’s the people, and specifically the percent of people poisoned by lead exposure in early childhood.

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December 27, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Permalink


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With all respect to Mr. Nevin, trying to predict the incarceration rate 15 years from now, much less 87 years from now (which is what he does), is a fool's errand, even assuming his data are 100% accurate.

It would be like trying to predict the incarceration rate now from someone writing in 1926.

Good luck with that!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 27, 2013 11:14:10 PM

In 88 years there should be genetic testing for liability to sociopathy, to addiction. I also believe, the lawyer profession's betrayal of the public safety will be found out, and it will end its protection of the criminal or get crushed.

Don't kids in China and in Egypt have high lead levels? Don't they have low crime levels?

How come?

Mr. Nevin got huffy, instead of answering that question, the last time.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 28, 2013 2:05:41 AM

Where is Mr. Nevin?

How about this idea?

The criminals were in prison. It decreased their fecundity. So they were not able to spawn 14 kids by 14 hussies, maybe 2 or 3 instead. The number of these prisoners began to rise in the late 1980's and 1990's. Their spawn would now be in their teens and twenties. Except there are none, because they could not breed in prison. Thus one has fewer arrests.

Thus incapacitation 1) reduces the super damage of the hundreds of crimes of each prisoner on the economy; 2) reduces his fecundity and prevents the super damages of the 14 children not spawned by the criminal, in an exponential manner, not an additive manner. Say the $50,000 it costs prevent the $million in damage by the criminal. It also prevent the $14 million damages of the spawn not spawned. Is there a bigger bargain than that, an investment with a bigger return?

I apologize in advance for the use of the math term, exponential, in a lawyer blog. But there is no other way to express the benefit of not having 14 criminals born, then 14 not spawned by each one of the 14 missing spawn, so on, for generations.

This explanation is self evident and does not require the additional evidence still missing in Mr. Nevin's theory. Whether the transmission of crime is genetic, familial, or the result of bastardy, the incapacitation of the violent predator from breeding has yet to be addressed by the biased lawyer policy maker.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 28, 2013 6:33:14 AM

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: IF there is "great crime decline" - why does US still have Mass Incarceration? #Massincarceration
Earl Smith, PhD

Posted by: Earl Smith | Dec 28, 2013 6:53:52 AM

The left promotes this weak factor in crime of lead levels, which can never vbe too low. Why? It will force the predictive to abate all lead exposure, generating make work jobs for Democratic Party voters.

Here is another factor never to be spoken by the left wing media. Welfare stopped paying by the number of children. Black fecundity has thus dropped. Because of the high bastardy rate of this population, their lower fecundity has been a factor in the dropping arrest rate. Bastardy being he most powerful factor causing crime, the welfare change in policy also dropped crime.

Black are not genetically predisposed to crime. Their rates of antisocial personality is the same as that of whites, and their rate of substance abuse is actually lower than that of whites. They may have more lead levels, but that is a weak factor. The reason this is important, is that what has happened to them is happening to whites. The rate of white bastardy is now a whopping 40%, and all the social ills befalling our black friends will now visit the white population, thanks to the vile feminist lawyer, seeking to destroy the American family by sieging it from all sides. Once white bastardy reaches 70%, this country is finished.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 28, 2013 8:00:22 AM

With respect to unwed births and children living with single parents, my 2007 study notes: "Blood lead prevalence over 30 mcg/dl among white USA children fell from 2% in 1976–1980 to less than 0.5% in 1988–1991, as prevalence over 30 mcg/dl among black children plummeted from 12% to below 1%. The white juvenile murder arrest rate then fell from 6.4 to 2.1 from 1993–2003, as the black juvenile rate fell from 58.6 to 9.7. That 83% fall in the black juvenile murder arrest rate occurred with just 36% of black children living in two-parent families in 1993, and in 2003."

Posted by: Rick Nevin | Dec 28, 2013 12:11:27 PM

Rick: There are many confounding and ascertainment problems, to be discussed later, if you will listen.

For now, can you address international comparisons of nations with high lead levels and low crime rates?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 28, 2013 3:42:55 PM

My 2007 study showed the same relationship between lead exposure and crime trends in every one of nine nations where I could find reliable blood lead, lead emissions, and crime trend data. The crime data from many nations are suspect, and blood lead and emissions data are even harder to find. Almost all data from China are suspect, with Senior Chinese Officials acknowledging that they look at electricity use to measure economic trends because they don't trust their own reported data on GDP. China claims to have a low crime rate, but acknowledges having an extremely high rate of executions per capita, suggesting that crime is a bigger problem than they admit. Egypt data on crime came from the same regime that reported 99.9% voter turnout for rigged elections, and that regime had a strong incentive to report low crime rates to promote tourism. My website includes a paper on Latin America nations where I have found some air lead trend data and information on their late phase-out of lead in gasoline, and recent murder rate data appears to confirm my earlier predictions about when murder rates in Latin America would start to fall. Also, you have to remember the time lag: To see how the lead-crime theory fits with crime reported over recent years, I need to have the data on population lead exposure from two decades ago, and finding historical lead data for most nations is even more difficult.

Posted by: Rick Nevin | Dec 28, 2013 5:04:29 PM

Government crime statistics are subject to political pressures and manipulation. The crime rates of Egypt and China were from victim surveys down by people hired by the UN, using the gold standard of the DOJ Crime Victim Survey methodology.

Crime in Egypt has shot up after the turmoil.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 30, 2013 12:18:07 PM

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