This is kind of out of the blue, but it just annoys me. Today’s WaPo:
The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. … What makes Nevin’s work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries. … Within the field of neurotoxicology, Nevin’s findings are unsurprising, said Ellen Silbergeld, professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University and the editor of Environmental Research. “There is a strong literature on lead and sociopathic behavior among adolescents and young adults with a previous history of lead exposure,” she said.
Specifically, lead is supposed to increase “impulsivity,” the inability to control criminal impulses. And sure, that’s been solidly established.
But let’s look at some further data. These stats happen to be for 2005 from the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center, but they’re in the same ballpark no matter where you get the numbers. (Sorry, the table’s a bit funky. Best I can do.)
|murder, assault||drug, public order, parole offenses||property, immigration, material witness offenses|
Anything strike you about it? (Women do catch up a bit with less impulsive “crimes” like immigration violations, but even there the gap is out of all proportion to the population involved.)
I mean, for God’s sake. I understand that the author isn’t implying lead is the only factor, or that there aren’t plenty of others. But people will discuss absolutely anything, anything–race, poverty, education–as causes of high crime rates, and they can’t even seem to see the 800 pound gorilla in the living room.
I wonder why that would be.