Kevin Drum’s long-awaited report: Ever since we learned it was coming, we’ve been looking forward to Kevin Drum’s long-awaited report.
Has the removal of lead from the air driven the steep reductions in crime over the past twenty years? In this post about crime rates in L.A., Drum previews his new report for Mother Jones about the effects of lead removal.
Drum has posted on this topic for years. At some point last year, a terrible thought crept into our heads as we watched the remarkably self-contained children we now see emerge, on a regular basis, from our local elementary school.
Could it possibly be, we wondered. Could it possibly be that the nation’s rising test scores are also tied to lead abatement? Could it be that lead abatement has helped produce those rising test scores—the rising scores your major newspapers simply refuse to report?
Could it be that lead was part of the problem when our test scores were much lower? Last October, in this Wonkblog post, Brad Plumer suggested this possibility.
“Study: Getting rid of lead does wonders for school performance.” That was Plumer’s headline:
PLUMER (10/8/12): Childhood lead levels have been falling steadily in the past decade, according to the Centers on Disease Control, but there’s room to fall further. There are still older houses with deteriorating lead paint. Soils in urban areas contain lead deposits from old vehicle emissions. And thousands of miles of lead water pipe are still in service around the country. It would take money to strip that lead out. But a new NBER paper from economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes suggests that even modest reductions can have out-sized benefits.Could lead abatement be helping to produce improved test scores and lower crime rates? We look forward to reading Drum’s report—and we recommend Plumer’s post.
Reyes took a look at what happened in Massachusetts during the 1990s, when the state took aggressive steps to strip old paint from homes with children under the age of six—and closely monitored students for lead levels. By scrutinizing state standardized test scores before and after the policies were enacted, Reyes found suggestive evidence that lead abatement had a major impact on school performance...
Tomorrow, another post we didn't get to last year.