Unconventional explanations for crime

Kevin Drum has an interesting article on the possibility that lead poisoning may have generated a crime wave in the 90s. He reports Jessica Reyes’ work on the econometrics:

If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you’d expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that’s exactly what she found.

Drum’s whole article is well worth reading, although I wonder if this debate will go the way of other economists’ unconventional explanations of crime.

Update: Tyler Cowen links to the other side of the debate.

2 replies
  1. JC
    JC says:

    Its a logical argument and one used decades ago to get lead out of petrol. But just as useful would be to suggest that the median age has also moved up pretty dramatically which should result in a more settled population; add in some pretty prosperous recent decades as well and it would be surprising not to see a drop in crime.


    • jamesz
      jamesz says:

      Have criminologists not already considered demographic and income-related explanations? I don’t know the literature but I’d presume so.

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