I think this is one of the most interesting pieces of researching in epidemiology and profound effects on society I have ever seen. I wrote about Kevin Drum’s original work on the connection between lead in the environment and crime rates (I’m not linking to my piece, his piece is linked to in the Brookings piece). This is one of those things where the evidence is so clear, but the conclusion just seems too easy, that contingents in sociology believe it too good to be true.
A recent investigation by Reuters found that lead exposure affects kids in communities across the country — not just in high-profile cities like Flint, Michigan. This is worrisome, because elevated blood lead levels in kids have been linked to an array of developmental delays and behavioral problems. More ominously, this could also increase crime. Kevin Drum and others have argued that lead exposure caused the high crime rates during the 1980s and early 1990s. There has been suggestive evidence of such a link for decades, though it hasn’t gained much traction in research or policy circles. But the case that lead exposure causes crime recently became much stronger.
I think it’s fascinating, your mileage may vary.