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November 30, 2020

Reviewing again links between lead exposure and crime rates

Long-time readers may recall that I have always been intrigued by the (often overlooked) social science research that suggests lead exposure levels may better account for variations in crime rates than just about any other single variable.  In an number of older posts (linked below), I flagged some articles on this topic, and I have always been eager to note work by researcher Rick Nevin who has been talking up the lead-exposure-crime-link evidence for many years. 

Mr. Nevin sent me a note today to flag some of his recent work at this new website of his.  The first post from this new site, titled just "Consistency," concludes with this summary proposition:

[A] robust research literature shows a clear association between preschool lead exposure and crime at the individual, census tract, city, suburb, county, state, national and international levels.  The association occurs with a lag of about two decades, reflecting neurobehavioral damage in the first years of life that especially affects the peak age of offending in the late-teens and early-20s.

Without vouching for his data, I am happy and eager to note some additional recent posts by Mr. Nevin's (with a recommendation that everyone click through to see all his charts and cites):

Rick Nevin, "Has any other crime theory predicted crime trends with so much accuracy, over so many years, in so many nations?":

Burglary rates fell 50% or more from 2002-2018 in [Canada, Australia, Britain, and the USA].  Robbery rates in Britain and Australia peaked in 2001, but Canada and USA robbery rates peaked 10 years earlier, reflecting the earlier phase-out of leaded gasoline in Canada and the USA.  Australia’s robbery rate fell 62% from 2002-2018.  The Canadian robbery rate fell almost 50% from 1991-2018, including a 39% decline from 2002-2018.  The USA robbery rate fell 68% from 1991-2018, including a 41% decline from 2002-2018.  The police recorded robbery rate in Britain fell 57% from 2001-2014, but then increased from 2014-2018.  The U.K. Office for National Statistics believes that part of the trend since 2014 reflects a real increase in robberies, but notes that the 2014-2018 rise also reflects crime recording changes since 2014 that made “substantial contributions” to the 2014-2018 rise in recorded robberies. Except for the anomalous 2014-2018 robbery trend in Britain, the 2002-2018 burglary and robbery trends for Canada, Australia, Britain, and the USA have all tracked earlier preschool blood lead trends reported for each nation.

Rick Nevin, "“A black male baby born today … stands a” near-zero chance of going to prison":

The 2000-2019 change in male incarceration rates reflects ongoing trends in arrests by age. From 1994-2019, violent crime arrest rates fell 72% for ages 0-14, 73% for ages 15-17, and 65% for ages 18-20, but rose 21% for ages 50-54. From 1988-2019, property crime arrest rates fell 89% for ages 0-14, 83% for ages 15-17, and 74% for ages 18-20, but rose 11% for ages 50-54.

Falling juvenile and young adult arrest and incarceration rates and rising rates for older adults are all explained by birth year trends in lead exposure. The decline in juvenile arrest rates through 2019 compares juveniles born after the 1970-2000 decline in lead exposure versus juveniles in the late-1980s and early-1990s, born near the early-1970s peak in leaded gas emissions. The increase in arrest rates for ages 50-54 compares adults in 2019 born near the circa 1970 peak in lead exposure versus adults ages 50-54 in the late-1980s and early-1990s born before the 1945-1970 rise in leaded gas emissions.

Some older related posts from this blog:

November 30, 2020 at 02:54 PM | Permalink


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