Pumped full of lead

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Eric the .5b
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 12 Aug 2014, 19:39

Mo wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:Especially when the guy who's the prime mover of this thing is a Bell Curve apologist.
?
Maybe "rehabilitator". He has an abstract of a paper on his site where he takes the basic claims of The Bell Curve as fact and argues that they were true because of lead.

There are technocratic liberals I run into who like the hypothesis and take as the lesson not that they don't know what they're doing, but that all the Big Government Plans would have worked just fine if poor people hadn't been so brain-damaged. Considering all the ways we know government policy fucked over poor people (particularly urban minorities) last century, it's an easy way for those liberals to play blame-the-victim.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 12 Aug 2014, 19:49

I think that the most important public policy lesson of the lead-crime connection (assuming, for the sake of argument, that it's real) is that not poisoning children has probably done more to reduce crime than all of the fuzzy and/or technocratic liberal interventions and all of the tuff conservative interventions of the past several decades.

If this hypothesis holds up under further scrutiny, I'll let the environmentalists of the left claim a whim win*, but the paternalistic technocrats need to shut up. And, frankly, however much some here might dislike environmentalists, their crunchy hippie side is preferable to technocrats on a lot of social issues.

*Damn typo
Last edited by thoreau on 12 Aug 2014, 19:56, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Hugh Akston » 12 Aug 2014, 19:54

So the lesson is that the left should put more focus on controlling people at the chemical level.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 12 Aug 2014, 20:05

Hugh Akston wrote:So the lesson is that the left should put more focus on controlling people at the chemical level.
That's why they called it eugenics, not megenics.

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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by lunchstealer » 12 Aug 2014, 20:23

tr0g wrote:
Mo wrote:
tr0g wrote:It's just the fine-tuning of the mind control rays to make us docile little sheep. Lead is the explanation they're giving you so won't ask questions.
That makes sense. Less lead in the brain means less blocking of the mind control rays. :)
Well, the paxilon hydrochlorate had some unintended side effects, so mind control rays, despite the initial capital investment, work out better in the long run.
Well, the G23 paxillon hydrochlorate had problems, but I'm sure the next iteration will have all the kinks worked out. I mean, the whole Miranda issue was over a decade ago. I'm sure the boffins have everything worked out, and it's time for another planetary test-run.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 12 Aug 2014, 20:23

thoreau wrote:If this hypothesis holds up under further scrutiny, I'll let the environmentalists of the left claim a whim, but the paternalistic technocrats need to shut up. And, frankly, however much some here might dislike environmentalists, their crunchy hippie side is preferable to technocrats on a lot of social issues.
There's plenty of overlap of environmentalists and technocrats, especially when you get to the precautionary principle enthusiasts. None of them are inclined to shut up, and all of them will say - are saying, in my experience - that this is proof they should be listened to, more.

I will make some perhaps cynical predictions:

* There'll be a study or two that be heralded as absolute proof of the LCH by supporters.

* Actual researchers in the field (outside of the LCH clique) will start poking at the logic of it and start finding problems. Other studies will be less utterly-supportive of the LCH.

* Even while Drum fans are trumpeting this as proven fact, it'll be controversial in the criminology field.

* Eventually, some fraction of the Baby Boom Crime Wave will be credited to lead poisoning, but far less than the proponents are currently arguing. It'll be low enough that...

* Researchers will go back to trying to figure out why the Baby Boom Crime Wave happened.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Mo » 12 Aug 2014, 20:24

Eric the .5b wrote:
Mo wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:Especially when the guy who's the prime mover of this thing is a Bell Curve apologist.
?
Maybe "rehabilitator". He has an abstract of a paper on his site where he takes the basic claims of The Bell Curve as fact and argues that they were true because of lead.
I just did a quick skim and it seem that, if anything, it refutes the claims of The Bell Curve. It takes the results of The Bell Curve analysis as fact, which even the critics of the book accept*. If anything, that paper by Nevin would bolster the claims of critics of the book by demonstrating an environmental pathway to get the results found by H&M rather than the inherited on that Murray touts. Put simply, I doubt Murray would ever tout Nevin's work as vindication.

* The alternative is to accuse H&M of fraud. Much of the critique is that what is being measured isn't g, that heritability isn't the primary cause, etc.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 12 Aug 2014, 20:39

Eric the .5b wrote:
thoreau wrote:If this hypothesis holds up under further scrutiny, I'll let the environmentalists of the left claim a whim, but the paternalistic technocrats need to shut up. And, frankly, however much some here might dislike environmentalists, their crunchy hippie side is preferable to technocrats on a lot of social issues.
There's plenty of overlap of environmentalists and technocrats, especially when you get to the precautionary principle enthusiasts. None of them are inclined to shut up, and all of them will say - are saying, in my experience - that this is proof they should be listened to, more.
I definitely agree that there is plenty of overlap. Still, I'm willing to acknowledge a win for the hippie granola element in environmentalism, while suggesting to the technocrats that they consider this a net loss: Right on lead regulations, wrong on so many social policies ostensibly pitched to reduce crime.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 12 Aug 2014, 23:09

Mo wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:
Mo wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:Especially when the guy who's the prime mover of this thing is a Bell Curve apologist.
?
Maybe "rehabilitator". He has an abstract of a paper on his site where he takes the basic claims of The Bell Curve as fact and argues that they were true because of lead.
I just did a quick skim and it seem that, if anything, it refutes the claims of The Bell Curve. It takes the results of The Bell Curve analysis as fact, which even the critics of the book accept*. If anything, that paper by Nevin would bolster the claims of critics of the book by demonstrating an environmental pathway to get the results found by H&M rather than the inherited on that Murray touts. Put simply, I doubt Murray would ever tout Nevin's work as vindication.

* The alternative is to accuse H&M of fraud. Much of the critique is that what is being measured isn't g, that heritability isn't the primary cause, etc.
The only criticism or refutation that I see Nevin's making is that g isn't genetically based. Cogent criticisms of Bell Curve logic go well beyond the heritability point, and Nevin's argument necessarily hews close to most of H&M's ideas. If you allow for doubt on the idea of objective IQ tests without social bias, the connection of IQ test results to g, etc., Nevin's case gets weaker as well.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 04 Jan 2015, 13:09

Another interesting tidbit supporting the lead-crime hypothesis.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2 ... entury-ago

As always, no one study can be conclusive, and I'm sure that lead isn't the only factor affecting national crime rates. Still, supporting evidence continues to accumulate for the hypothesis that lead is a significant factor in national crime rate trends.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 04 Jan 2015, 19:46

Drum himself comes up with a laundry list of problems with the study, including that it doesn't show any difference between Southern cities with or without lead and that reliable homicide data only starts in 1921 to begin with.

I have to admit, given that after all those problems, he still somehow deems it "persuasive", that he's definitely all-in on lead (whereas I thought he'd drop it eventually after the initial flack he got). Maybe he's sunk some money into remediation companies.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by JasonL » 04 Jan 2015, 20:31

I think you have to be careful in the social sciences with the urge to accumulate a series of studies everyone agrees are flawed and compile them into a mounting evidence kind of thing. It is too easy to pick and choose your studies and mine for outcomes - even when you aren't doing it intentionally. I need a solid control or a natural experiment or something convincing along those lines.

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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 04 Jan 2015, 20:57

I agree that this study has significant limits, but I think it has value as a preliminary piece of work pointing in a direction worth exploring farther. Research communities don't move forward solely on the basis of firm, large-scale studies that conclusively support or falsify a hypothesis. They also move forward on the basis of small, tentative studies that can be summed up as "These people have found enough tantalizing clues to show that this is an avenue that merits the attention of other researchers." To my cursory knowledge, it's the first time that people have looked at the effects of lead pipes rather than exposure via paints and gasoline. The effects are interesting enough that other researchers should go in and look for other data sets that could enable them to examine the hypothesis about lead pipes in more detail. Looking at lead pipes is important because if (notice that I said "if") the effect is real then it really ought to be apparent for lead pipes as well as other sources of lead exposure. If the pattern doesn't become better-supported with further investigation of lead pipe data (and I assume/hope that other researchers will try to follow up on this study) then there's a serious problem with the lead-crime hypothesis.

At this point, what I'm looking for is a well-conducted study that fails to find the effect. The effect has shown up in a lot of places and in a number of different data sets, the time lag is fairly consistent, and there's a proposed causal mechanism that has a lot of good biological support. If the pattern continues to hold up without any well-supported counter-examples, and the biological evidence continues to show that the proposed causal mechanism is real (i.e. biological investigation continues to show that lead exposure in childhood really can produce neurological changes that, ceteris paribis, affect impulse control) then at some point this will become a satisfactory answer for the wonderful but perplexing puzzle of why crime rates have fallen so consistently for so long.

If counter-examples start to come up, well, this hypothesis will go down in scientific history as an important cautionary tale.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 04 Jan 2015, 21:03

As far as southern cities, my understanding is that there were only a handful with lead pipes. The presence or absence of an effect in a small sample is something that you're better off not looking at. Also, there are enough social and economic differences between the regions, including certain migration and immigration patterns early in the 20th century, that it might be better to only compare northern cities with lead to northern cities without lead, since those two samples are apparently of comparable size and, despite their diversity, might plausibly have some factors in common with each other.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 05 Jan 2015, 11:37

So, let me get this straight, Thoreau.

1) The single metric is the murder rate.

2) Actual useful data on the murder rate doesn't start until after the hypothesized time lag since installing lead pipes had passed. Therefore, no growth-in-murder trend can be shown.

3) Nor does the study go to chart drops in crime after those pipes were changed out. So, no time trend whatsoever is shown.

4) The one thing actually compared is Northern vs Southern cities, which mostly didn't use lead pipes. A general difference in the murder rate seems to show up.

5) However, there's no actual difference found between Southern cities with and without lead pipes, something that would help control for differences of city ages, settlement patterns, early growth of modern ethnic gangsters in Northern cities during the time period, etc. between Northern and Southern cities.

You suggest #5 is meaningless; I'm dubious that any of this is meaningful, especially as, again, all that's compared is annual murder rate between entire cities, one of the most variable damn social variables out there

It seems like a crap study to me. I find myself suspecting that we'll see more crappy studies that won't meaningfully bolster each other's cases, but will be treated as "mounting evidence", so that the first study that isn't eagerly looking to demonstrate this hypothesis will be blown off as an outlier.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Mo » 05 Jan 2015, 11:57

I don't think 1 is a flaw. Murder is the most useful proxy for violent crime historically and across countries because it lacks issues with differing enforcement, definitions, etc. that you see with other violent crimes. Murder is a crime and treated as a serious crime everywhere and leaves evidence of the crime. This is not true of other types of violent crime, so when you want to measure violent crime in pre-WWII era, murder is the best metric.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 05 Jan 2015, 13:36

Eric the .5b wrote:1) The single metric is the murder rate.
Mo addressed this. Of all the violent crimes, murder is probably the most easily measured. While coroners can certainly face some tough calls, most murders will produce bodies with obvious stab wounds, bullet holes, etc. There are any number of reasons why a beating might not be reported (or might be falsely reported), and we've had more than enough discussion about rape definitions. But murder is (comparatively) easy to measure.

That said, I agree that it would be important to see follow-up work that looks more broadly than murder, and looks at different crime reporting and classification methodologies. Those problems may be hard to address, but to the extent that they can be addressed it's important that the comparisons be made, to see if this hypothesis makes sense.
2) Actual useful data on the murder rate doesn't start until after the hypothesized time lag since installing lead pipes had passed. Therefore, no growth-in-murder trend can be shown.

3) Nor does the study go to chart drops in crime after those pipes were changed out. So, no time trend whatsoever is shown.
The question tested here is admittedly about comparisons at the same time rather than trends over time, but I actually think that's important. If the claim is that lead exposure affects crime rates, then we shouldn't just see differences over time as lead exposure goes up or down. We should also be able to compare two sets of cities that are otherwise more-or-less-similar but differ in lead exposure (or, more precisely, differ in lead exposure 20 years ago) and see, on average, differences in crime. If we didn't see that effect, it would call into question whether lead exposure actually matters for crime rates.

I admit that the short duration of the study is a problem, which is why I hope that there are follow-ups looking at longer time intervals, more cities (provided that they are roughly apples-to-apples comparisons), and other sets of crime statistics (since, from my admittedly non-expert understanding, different law enforcement agencies and research organizations have often used different methodologies for counting and classifying crimes).
4) The one thing actually compared is Northern vs Southern cities, which mostly didn't use lead pipes. A general difference in the murder rate seems to show up.
A general difference between two culturally and economically different regions needs to be interpreted with caution.
5) However, there's no actual difference found between Southern cities with and without lead pipes, something that would help control for differences of city ages, settlement patterns, early growth of modern ethnic gangsters in Northern cities during the time period, etc. between Northern and Southern cities.
My understanding is that the sample size for Southern cities with lead pipes was small. FWIW, if somebody had found a significant effect in that small set of Southern cities, I would have been dubious about attaching much significance to it.
It seems like a crap study to me. I find myself suspecting that we'll see more crappy studies that won't meaningfully bolster each other's cases, but will be treated as "mounting evidence", so that the first study that isn't eagerly looking to demonstrate this hypothesis will be blown off as an outlier.
I am more optimistic than you are concerning the way that peer-reviewed social science research is conducted (not to be confused with how journalists summarize that research). I predict that if somebody came out with a small-scale study that failed to find the lead-crime effect, the response from most social science researchers would be "Small sample size, so don't dismiss the entire hypothesis based on one study, but definitely needs follow-up." I also predict that if somebody came out with a large, carefully-controlled study that failed to find the effect, the response would be "There are very serious problems with this hypothesis, and we need to carefully compare this with other studies to understand what is going on."

Science doesn't proceed solely through large, comprehensive, unassailably rigorous studies. It proceeds through the accumulation of smaller and often conflicting studies, which collectively point to the need for larger, more comprehensive, and more careful studies to get to the bottom of things.

Also, remember that I've been sporadically commenting on studies I see on this for two years now, and one of my consistent points has been that if this hypothesis is really true then we ought to see more statistical evidence for Kids These Days having better impulse control, at least in the lower tail of the distribution. So I do remain skeptical, but I also think that it is reasonable to view this as a hypothesis with promise.
Last edited by thoreau on 05 Jan 2015, 14:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Mo » 05 Jan 2015, 13:56

thoreau wrote:Also, remember that I've been sporadically commenting on studies I see on this for two years now, and one of my consistent points has been that if this hypothesis is really true then we ought to see more statistical evidence for Kids These Days having better impulse control, at least in the lower tail of the distribution. So I do remain skeptical, but I also think that it is reasonable to view this as a hypothesis with promise.
Isn't the drop in teen pregnancy/abortion rate a piece of the evidence? It's pretty astounding how similar the violent crime and teen pregnancy lines are.

[img]http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/familyfacts/charts-web/272-FF-chart.jpg[/img]
Image
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 05 Jan 2015, 13:57

The national correlation between teen pregnancy rates and violent crime rates is indeed interesting. Has it been subject to all of the same state-by-state and international comparisons as the lead and crime data?
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by JasonL » 05 Jan 2015, 14:25

This discussion reminded me of a pretty good if dry discussion on methods used to evaluate causation in the social sciences. Some of us here are more Robertsian and others a bit more Angristish in their optimism about ability to identify social causation absent the tools you get in controlled physical experimentation.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2014/1 ... grist.html

Methods discussed:
So, we start with random assignment. We talk about regression next, not because it's the best method but because it's a natural starting place. And I can't imagine seeing an empirical paper about cause and effect which doesn't at least show me the author's best effort at some kind of regression estimates where they control for the observed differences between groups. That may not be the last word, but it ought to be the first word. The other methods are Instrumental Variables (IV), regression discontinuity designs, and differences in differences.
Dude meanders but the content is good and interesting with examples of each. My basic concern is I have profound skepticism of anything beyond random assignment. I've seen too many regressions go wrong. My sense for the moment, assuming this guy is on his game explaining methods and i have no reason to think that's not the case, is that I'd want a regression to be supported by one or more of the other methods before I took it as a piece of evidence we can put on the scale. Multiple rounds of regression telling the same story do not impress me. I'm still chewing on this though.

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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by thoreau » 18 Feb 2016, 13:41

Kevin Drum has found a study with similar results in Australia.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2 ... tralia-too
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Mo » 11 Nov 2016, 13:59

Andrew Gelman seems convinced based on analysis he did based on Census tracts.
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by JasonL » 11 Nov 2016, 14:40

But trump came later and violence will consume us all apparently.

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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Eric the .5b » 11 Nov 2016, 15:25

Mo wrote:Andrew Gelman seems convinced based on analysis he did based on Census tracts.
Interesting; that site's blocked for me behind the work firewall. Supposedly a "malicious site".

But then, it thinks the site for an open source forms library I've used is "porn".

More to the point, I thought the initial studies used census studies?
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Re: Pumped full of lead

Post by Jadagul » 11 Nov 2016, 15:34

Eric the .5b wrote:
Mo wrote:Andrew Gelman seems convinced based on analysis he did based on Census tracts.
Interesting; that site's blocked for me behind the work firewall. Supposedly a "malicious site".

But then, it thinks the site for an open source forms library I've used is "porn".

More to the point, I thought the initial studies used census studies?
That blog post is largely about how it doesn't look like noise mining. If you try enough different statistical approaches you can often get a conclusion out of noise. So Gelman reached out to the people doing the study and asked them to run a bunch of different simple statistical tests, and the effect showed up in all of them--which he hadn't really expected, because that's a bit unusual. So raises the credibility of the conclusion.
In summary: the data are what they are. The correlation seems real, not just an artifact of a particular regression specification. It’s all observational so we shouldn’t overinterpret it, but the pattern seems worth sharing.

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