On Peer Effects and Pollution: Does Exposure to Lead Affect Everyone in the Classroom?
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This project investigates spillovers in lead exposure using unique student-level education data linked to student-level blood lead tests by age six. Our education data cover every child born between 1990 and 2008 and attending public schools in North Carolina. First, we show that the negative effects of lead exposure on educational and behavioral outcomes are robust to controlling for siblings fixed effects, thus assuaging concerns of omitted variable bias. We also investigate the persistence of these effects across grades, and their heterogeneity across socioeconomic statuses. We find that lead-exposed peers have worse outcomes in the classroom.
Second, we estimate the effect of having more lead-exposed peers on educational achievement, suspension from school and dropping out of school in different grades and school environments controlling for sibling, school, and grade fixed effects. We exploit variation in the proportion of lead-exposed children across years in the cohort composition at a given school and compare siblings who attend the same school a few years apart. Our preliminary estimates suggest that having more lead-poisoned peers decreases test scores and increases the likelihood of being suspended from school after controlling for one’s own lead exposure.