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Inequality in Lead Exposure and the Black-White Test Score Gap

August 2015

Anna Aizer, Janet Currie, Peter Simon, Patrick Vivier


The article argues that a 5 microgram per deciliter increase in lead blood content in children is expected to produce a 6 point drop in test scores. It also argues that because minority children are typically exposed to higher amounts of lead and toxins that recent efforts to decrease lead exposure could be responsible for roughly half of the recent decline in the black-white testing gap.

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Policy Implications

Changes in children’s academic performance are typically seen as mainly derived from socio-economic conditions. However this study opens the possibility that environmental factors, and thus environmental policy can help to shape academic outcomes. It can also be useful in finding ways to lessen the income inequality as greater academic performance in early years is linked to better job outlook.

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