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

When: Monday, March 1st 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Where: Zoom link: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/98382278178 - email ibs-contact@colorado.edu for password.
Who: Sam Trejo

Abstract: 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 synthetic control and difference-in-differences methods to quantify the educational consequences of the Flint Water Crisis for affected children. By combining sixteen 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, potentially operating through mechanisms such as stigma, marginalization, and social unrest, were large compared to the health effects.

Bio: My name is Sam Trejo—I am a quantitative social scientist interested in how social and biological factors combine to shape human development and the potential implications for public policy. I specialize in quasi-experimental, biosocial, and computational methods and am particularly interested in the reciprocal relationship between education and health across the life-course. My work capitalizes on two data sources that, until relatively recently, were unavailable to researchers: (1) large administrative datasets and (2) longitudinal studies containing molecular genetic data. Last year, I wrote an op-ed about how my experiences with nerve damage and chronic pain led me to donate a kidney to a stranger. When not puzzling over human behavior, I enjoy camping, riding bikes, playing board games, and eating Chinese food. https://www.samtrejo.com/