Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy

No 2017:4: Early lead exposure and outcomes in adulthood

Hans Grönqvist (), J Peter Nilsson () and Per-Olof Robling ()
Additional contact information
Hans Grönqvist: Department of economics, Uppsala university, IFAU, UCLS, Postal: Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy, P O Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
J Peter Nilsson: Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, IFAU, UCLS, Postal: Stockholm, Sweden
Per-Olof Robling: Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University,, Postal: Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: We exploit the phase-out of leaded gasoline to isolate the impact of early childhood lead exposure on outcomes in adulthood. By combining administrative data on school performance, high school graduation, crime, earnings, and cognitive and non-cognitive skills with a novel measure of lead exposure, we follow 800,000 children from birth into adulthood. We find that reduced lead exposure improves the adult outcomes, particularly among boys. Below certain thresholds, the relationship becomes much weaker. Non-cognitive traits (externalizing behavior, conscientiousness, and neuroti-cism) follow a similar non-linear dose response pattern and seem to be the key mediators between early lead exposure and adult outcomes.

Keywords: environmental policy; human capital; crime; non-cognitive skills

JEL-codes: I18; K42; Q53

70 pages, May 15, 2017

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