Hot Spots of Lead (Pb) and Crime: An Empirical Examination of the Association Between High Lead Index Concentrations and High Homicide Areas in Chicago, 1989-1991

Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida
Danielle McGurrin, University of South Florida
Paul Stretesky, Colorado State University

Sufficient medical evidence exists to suggest that exposure to lead (Pb) increases aggressive and violent behavior at the individual level. In this paper, we expand upon this finding by examining whether there is a broader geographic association between lead hot spots (areas with high lead concentrations) and homicide hot spots (areas with high levels of homicide). We perform this analysis to determine whether evidence of a relationship between lead and violence at the individual level is evident at higher levels of aggregation. The data for this study includes all census tracts in the city of Chicago. Homicide hot spots were estimated using three year totals (1989-1991). Lead hot spots were eestimated employing the lead concentration index developed in the epidemiological literature. Relevant crime correlates were added to the model. The sociological and radical implications of this research are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006