April 26, 2014

Did lead pollution cause crime?

People are once again talking about the hypothesis that the rise and fall in crime rates can be attributed to the rise and fall of lead pollution. For example, earlier this week, Steven Pinker tweeted:

  1. An earlier & more skeptical view of the lead-crime hypothesis: "Lead Poisoning and the Great 1960s Freakout":

I did a lot of work on the history of crime rates in 1999 and 2005 in regard to the similar Freakonomics did-abortion-cut-crime controversy that is relevant to the lead-and-crime debate. So I'm going to post below the 1999 four-part debate in Slate between Freakonomist Steven D. Levitt and myself in Slate. For apparently technical reasons, that 15-year-old discussion has become hard to find using search engines.

I outlined here my suggestions for new research that could resolve the lead and crime question by studying crime rates around EPA lead pollution Superfund Sites.


Anonymous said...

Steve,, could you and Mr. Pinker study my theory, tentatively titled "Blacks cause crime. "

Anonymous said...

Pinker seems to relish referring or linking to your work. He must enjoy pissing people off. It is admirable.

Mr. Anon said...

Back in the 70s lead exposure was linked with impaired mental development, if not also crime. It might make sense that the two would go together. But does the notion of lead exposure having noticeably deleterious effects make any sense?

The entire generation that built out the civilian economy in the 50s, built the worlds largest strategic nuclear arsenal, sent men to the moon, invented modern computers, and built great scientific establishments like SLAC and Fermilab, grew up and spent much of their adult lives in a sea of tetra-ethyl-lead spewed out of car tail-pipes.

Poor kids in the ghetto were ostensibly held back by eating paint-chips. But were they stupid because they ate paint chips, or did they eat paint chips because they were stupid. Or was it that any child who eats paint chips is doing so because they suffer from debilitating hunger?

There were groups of people who, after lead compounds were removed from paints and gasoline, still had (and even still have) greater than average lead exposure - plumbers, electronics technicians, electronics hobbyists, gun-range operators, shooting hobbyists, musket-shooting enthusiasts. Are they stupider and more crime prone than relevant control groups?

Whiskey said...

Steve, if you read Nicholas Stix colum in VDARE.com crime is not down.

Repeat: Crime has not decreased. Police are simply downgrading felonies and making murders, rapes, and robberies "disappear" to make their stats look good and avoid arresting Blacks which causes problems because of bloc voting in urban areas and PC/Status jihads.

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that one of the causes is a severe Vitamin D deficiency in Northern blacks--no sunlight at all in winter, tough to get sunlight in summer hours with black skin, combined with a Cheeto and Kool-aid diet. Southern blacks (excluding California) don't seem to be half so riot-minded as Northern ones.

That, plus a walloping dose of sociopathic genes and IQs so low it never occurs to them they'll end up in prison if they rob somebody.

Anonymous said...

lead start

Pat Boyle said...

We know a number of things today that were not appreciated until recently. Let me list a few.

1. The Tyrannosaurus Rex was not the largest carnivorous dinosaur.

2. All the Neanderthals did not perish without issue when the Anatomically Modern Humans invaded.

3. Blacks have smaller brains.

4. Blacks are much more subject to schizophrenia.

5. Blacks have higher rates of the "Warrior Gene".

6. Africans have IQs around 60.

All of these findings have been a shock to American 'conventional wisdom'. Crime looks different today from how it appeared in the watershed year 1973.

With the Beatles we got brain imaging technology and we could dismiss the Steven Jay Gould lies about brains by race.

With increasing DNA technology we began to see racial differences in relevant gene frequencies. We had proof that brains differed racially.

Lynn and Vanhanen showed that IQs in black Africa are much lower than hitherto expected.

In 1973 it was expected that new scientific discoveries were leading to an understanding that all men were identical under the skin. But it didn't work out that way.

In 1973 American family incomes had always gone up. In that turnaround year real per capita incomes stalled. Crime which was supposed to fall with the rise racial good feelings everywhere, instead exploded.

In grad school I was learning how to fix the housing problems in Detroit. We had models that were going to make everything just swell.

Looking for violence in heavy metal poisoning is a pre-1973 kind of idea. It might be true but it is the kind of idea that would only occur to anyone because they didn't appreciate the importance of race properly.

Pat Boyle (AKA Albertosaurus)

Jerry said...

The meme I see on facebook on this story is, "See, it was lead all along, [not blacks]." So there we are. It's like that old story that lead in pottery lead to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

I tend to go for the vitamin D theory, if there is any immediate solution. During my long years at the U of C, I suffered in the winters, but not like the blacks in Hyde Park suffered. I could dislike blacks generally, but I had to pity blacks in winter. Northern Europe is a study of adaptive mechanisms for coping with low sunlight... and they had centuries to do it in too. And even now they ALL go to Spain or Thailand for the winter.

Sean said...

Ever heard of hormesis?

I read through the debate with Levitt a while back. I think he is wrong about abortion in and of itself being the cause. Still, I think it not unlikely the proportion of young in a society is the key to all kinds of things, and there are proly lots o' reasons for the reversal of a youth bulge.

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

Crime never dropped, fudged certainly but it never dropped.

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

I had a radio stolen out of my car and it took a lot of convincing for the dispatcher to dispatch and even more badgering for the black copper to file a report. The dispatcher and the cop were both black females.

Extrapolating from this casual slackness I'd say that black metropolis PD's are deliberately massaging the crime stats.

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

The Romans ate off lead plates. The women wore lead masque make up.

They did great stuff.

It's the incarceration of blacks combined with fudged stats. Systematically fudged stats.

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

Low Hanging Fruit: Crime and African Americans in the American Jungle

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

This ignores New Orleans and Miami as crime spots.

It's just the blacks. Anywhere from Kinshasa to Port Au Prince to New Orleans or London they pick the low hanging fruit and think nothing I'll of it.

But I blame Cotton Mather and John Smith for it all. Aye!

Commissioner "Blame the Pilgrims" McCarthy said...

When the Germans reconstructed Germany they jumped into vats of heavy metals, Cauldrons of volatile chemicals and workshops full of poisons. They performed a post war miracle with negnigable ;-) crime upticks.

All post ww2.

Robert What? said...

Interesting thoughts. Could lead poisoning also explain the rise of Leftism in this country? It would explain a lot: delusions, out of touch with reality, irritability, etc.

Art Deco said...

Crime never dropped, fudged certainly but it never dropped.

I guess we have it on your authority.

Art Deco said...

Repeat: Crime has not decreased. Police are simply downgrading felonies and making murders, rapes, and robberies "disappear" to make their stats look good and avoid arresting Blacks which causes problems because of bloc voting in urban areas and PC/Status jihads.

The shmucks obsessed with the Kennedy assassination are more creative than you lot.