Autism Strikes Across Income Levels

Autism spectrum disorders may not related to household income level

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Autism is one of the more mysterious intellectual disabilities, and for years scientists have been trying to better understand its causes and functions.

Some research has suggested that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are related to household income level, but it appears there is no association between autism and how much a family makes.

"Autistic children are found in families of all income levels."

Researchers at the University of Utah completed a study in collaboration with the Utah Department of Health. They found that while the presence of autism and other intellectual disabilities (ID) is related to factors such as gender, the age of the parents, and maternal ethnicity and level of education - there is no difference among income levels.

Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, research assistant professor at the University of Utah, and her colleagues identified 26,108 eight-year-old children born in 1994 and living in Utah in 2002. Autistic children were significantly more likely to be male, and to have white mothers. Children with both ASD and ID were more likely to have mothers older than 34.

Pinborough-Zimmerman's team also investigated the link between autism and socioeconomic factors, looking at measures of income in the families with ASD or ID children over an eight year period. They found no clear association between income and the risk for ASD or ID, even though previous studies have shown autism to be associated with higher income, and other intellectual disabilities to be associated with lower income.

“Demographic risk factors, such as male gender and parental age have been well-described,” says Pinborough-Zimmerman. “However, the way in which socioeconomic factors are associated with the development of ASDs is poorly understood.” She added that identifying the risk factors associated with autism provides a better understanding of its causes.

The research is published in the September 2011 issue of Autism Research.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2011
Last Updated:
September 22, 2011