mercoledì 27 luglio 2016

Lead America Real Criminal Element

Notebook per
Lead America039s Real Criminal Element Mother Jones
Citation (APA): (2016). Lead America039s Real Criminal Element Mother Jones [Kindle Android version]. Retrieved from

Parte introduttiva
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Lead: America's Real Criminal Element Kevin Drum
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Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called "broken windows," popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. "If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired," they observed, "all the rest of the windows will soon be broken." So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle
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The results were dramatic. In 1996, the New York Times reported that crime had plunged for the third straight year, the sharpest drop since the end of Prohibition. Since 1993, rape rates had dropped 17 percent, assault 27 percent, robbery 42 percent, and murder an astonishing 49 percent.
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John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed "juvenile super-predators." Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop.
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And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent. Second, and far more puzzling, it's not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early '90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline.
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Dallas' has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.
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There are, it turns out, plenty of theories.
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it's mostly a matter of economics: Crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it's in a slump. Unfortunately, the theory doesn't seem to hold water— for example, crime rates have continued to drop recently despite our prolonged downturn.
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Another chapter suggested that crime drops in big cities were mostly a reflection of the crack epidemic of the '80s finally burning itself out.
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Another chapter told a story of demographics: As the number of young men increases, so does crime. Unfortunately for this theory, the number of young men increased during the '90s, but crime dropped anyway.
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On guns and gun control. On family. On race. On parole and probation. On the raw number of police officers. It seemed as if everyone had a pet theory. In 1999, economist Steven Levitt, later famous as the coauthor of Freakonomics, teamed up with John Donohue to suggest that crime dropped because of Roe v. Wade; legalized abortion, they argued, led to fewer unwanted babies, which meant fewer maladjusted and violent young men two decades later.
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After all, they all happened at the same time.
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Jim Manzi in his recent book Uncontrolled, econometrics consistently fails to explain most of the variation in crime rates. After reviewing 122 known field tests, Manzi found that only 20 percent demonstrated positive results for specific crime-fighting strategies, and none of those positive results were replicated in follow-up studies.
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More prisons might help control crime, more cops might help, and better policing might help. But the evidence is thin for any of these as the main cause.
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Experts often suggest that crime resembles an epidemic. But what kind? Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information.
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Think Bieber Fever.
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Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria.
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But if it's everywhere, all at once— as both the rise of crime in the '60s and '70s and the fall of crime in the '90s seemed to be— the cause is a molecule.
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Well, here's one possibility: Pb( CH2CH3) 4.
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Rick Nevin
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This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.
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The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn't paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline
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Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early '40s through the early '70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.
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Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.
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The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the '60s through the '80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early '90s.
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if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America.
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23 LAG
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correlation between two curves isn't all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar period too, and then declined in the '80s and '90s.
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In states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime declined slowly. Where it declined quickly, crime declined quickly.
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Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he'd found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn't just a coincidence.
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Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well.
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researcher Howard Mielke published a paper with demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level.
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We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level.
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childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime
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For example, murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We're so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation— because big cities have lots of cars
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Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes.
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Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise and fall following World War II, can explain the equally dramatic rise and fall in violent crime.
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But there's another reason to take the lead hypothesis seriously, and it might be the most compelling one of all: Neurological research is demonstrating that lead's effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ.
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cell death, in the brain,
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High childhood exposure damages a part of the brain linked to aggression control. The impact is greater among boys.
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Put simply, the network connections within the brain become both slower and less coordinated.
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A second study found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex— a
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lead affects precisely the areas of the brain "that make us most human."
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Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.
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Why has the lead/ crime connection been almost completely ignored in the criminology community?
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James Q. Wilson— father of the broken-windows theory, and the dean of the criminology community— had begun to accept that lead probably played a meaningful role
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Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who has studied promising methods of controlling crime, suggests that because criminologists are basically sociologists, they look for sociological explanations, not medical ones.
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My own sense is that interest groups probably play a crucial role: Political conservatives want to blame the social upheaval of the '60s for the rise in crime that followed.
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Police unions have reasons for crediting its decline to an increase in the number of cops.
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Prison guards like the idea that increased incarceration is the answer.
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Drug warriors want the story to be about drug policy.
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More generally, we all have a deep stake in affirming the power of deliberate human action.
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there's nothing more to be done on that front. Right? Wrong. As it turns out, tetraethyl lead is like a zombie that refuses to die. Our cars may be lead-free today, but they spent more than 50 years spewing lead from their tailpipes, and all that lead had to go somewhere. And it did: It settled permanently into the soil that we walk on, grow our food in, and let our kids play around.
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"I know people who have move into gentrified neighborhoods and renovate everything. They create huge hazards for their kids."
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Paint hasn't played a big role in our story so far, but that's only because it didn't play a big role in the rise of crime in the postwar era and its subsequent fall. Unlike gasoline lead, lead paint was a fairly uniform problem during this period,
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the Baltimore City Paper asked him why so little progress had been made recently on combating the lead-poisoning problem. "Number one," he said without hesitation, "it's a black problem." But it turns out that this is an outdated idea.
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Another reason that lead doesn't get the attention it deserves is that too many people think the problem was solved years ago.
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And while some scholars conclude that the prison boom had an effect on crime, recent research suggests that rising incarceration rates suffer from diminishing returns: Putting more criminals behind bars is useful up to a point,
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So this is the choice before us: We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals.
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