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Kids Are Becoming Less Violent. Adults Not So Much.

The lead-crime hypothesis is simple: lead poisoning in childhood affects the brain in ways that produce more violent crime later in life. If it’s true, then cohorts born after about 1980, when leaded gasoline started being phased out, will have a lower rate of violent crime. The flip side, unfortunately, is that cohorts born before 1980 are ruined for life. The brain damage is permanent and there’s no cure. So they’ll have a higher propensity for violence their entire lives.

In more concrete terms, the low-violence cohort is currently age 35 and under. The high-violence cohort is over age 35. Now, it turns out that cohort-level trends aren’t easy to sort out because the data on crime rates over time don’t include the age of the offender. But there are a few proxies that can give us a clue about whether different age cohorts are truly acting differently. Over at the Washington Monthly, Mike Males, a researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, has one.”

Other CJCJ articles on this topic: 

Lead exposure and poverty: Have we gotten youth violence” all wrong?

Lead and criminality: Is the EPA America’s top crime-buster?