Learning From Flint: The Health and Social Effects of the Flint Water Crisis on Educational Outcomes

Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 12:00 pm
Virtual Only – Zoom Link Forthcoming

Photo of Sam Trejo

Sam Trejo, Ph.D  
Assistant Professor of Public Affairs & Sociology

In 2014, Flint, Michigan switched its municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost saving measure. The corrosive river water was improperly treated, causing lead from aging pipes to leach into the city's drinking water. As a result of prolonged denial and inaction by public officials, Flint's 100,000 citizens were exposed to contaminated water for over a year and a half. The majority black, industrial city has since become a national symbol for government negligence and racial injustice. We use quasi-experimental methods to quantify the educational consequences of the Flint Water Crisis for affected children. By combining fifteen years of student-level education records with detailed GIS plumbing data, we separate out (1) the health-based effects of lead exposure from (2) the socially-based effects of living in a community experiencing a crisis. Our results demonstrate that, for school-age children, the social effects of the Flint Water Crisis, operating through mechanisms such as stigma, marginalization, and social unrest, were large compared to the health effects.