Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2015 Issue »

    Lead Policy and Academic Performance

    Insights from Massachusetts

    JESSICA WOLPAW REYES
    In this article, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes investigates the link between lead exposure and student achievement in Massachusetts. Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can adversely affect neurodevelopment, behavior, and cognitive performance. Using a panel dataset of cohorts of children born in the 1990s who were third and fourth graders in the 2000s, Reyes finds that elevated blood lead levels in early childhood adversely impact performance on later standardized tests. Accordingly, the Massachusetts state policy to reduce lead levels effectively lowered the share of children scoring unsatisfactory on standardized tests by 1–2 percentage points. Reyes shows that public health policy targeting lead has clear potential to improve academic performance and urges policy makers to give it serious consideration in this larger context.

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    Jessica Wolpaw Reyes is an associate professor of economics at Amherst College. Her work has investigated the effects of lead on crime, childhood behavior problems, antisocial behavior, and educational outcomes. Her research has been published in economics journals and featured in a variety of publications and news outlets throughout the world. Reyes is particularly interested in areas of health and inequality, and her broader research agenda focuses on public health and social impacts of environmental pollution. She is also a faculty research fellow with the National Bureau of Economic Research and recently served as a visiting scholar with the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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    Spring 2015 Issue

    Abstracts

    At the End of Intellectual Disability
    CHRISTOPHER KLIEWER, DOUGLAS BIKLEN, AND AMY J. PETERSEN
    Ethical and Professional Norms in Community-Based Research
    GERALD CAMPANO, MARÍA PAULA GHISO, AND BETHANY J. WELCH
    Lead Policy and Academic Performance
    Insights from Massachusetts
    JESSICA WOLPAW REYES
    Education and the Production of Diasporic Citizens in El Salvador
    ANDREA DYRNESS AND ENRIQUE SEPÚLVEDA III

    Book Notes

    Our School
    Sam Chaltain

    Laboratory of Learning
    Sharon Gay Pierson

    The Quest for Mastery
    Sam M. Intrator and Don Siegel