Autism More Prevalent in Upper-Income Households

Is autism tied to wealth? A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest that autism is tied to wealth with a higher rate of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses found in upper-income households. The results of this study, which used children in the United States as the focal point, are in direct contrast to a Scandinavian study, which showed no correlation between the two. However, Scandinavian countries have universal health care and thus the income disparity may not play a significant role in diagnostic rates in families across all income levels.

The following is the conclusion of the study as printed in the abstract. Please note that SES stands for socioeconomic status.

The stronger SES gradient in ASD prevalence in children with versus without a pre-existing ASD diagnosis points to potential ascertainment or diagnostic bias and to the possibility of SES disparity in access to services for children with autism. Further research is needed to confirm and understand the sources of this disparity so that policy implications can be drawn. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that there may be causal mechanisms or confounding factors associated with both high SES and vulnerability to ASD.

And more from the study:

A compelling argument has been made that the positive associations between SES and ASD prevalence that have been observed likely are due either in part or entirely to ascertainment bias. For example, it has been suggested that “more parents of high social class families [have] the necessary information and financial resources to find their way to the specialized facilities” and “a knowledgeable and determined parent of an autistic child [is] more likely to obtain an informed diagnosis”.

Obviously more research needs to be done into why autism prevalence tends to be higher in those with higher incomes. Is this a direct correlation or is an external factor (or factors) skewing the results here in the United States?

About Melissa

Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

© Melissa Hincha-Ownby and The Autism Education Site, 2008-2014.


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