Home > Science > Affluence and Autism: Cause and Effect? Or Not?

Affluence and Autism: Cause and Effect? Or Not?

Have you seen this new University of Wisconsin study that correlates an increased prevalence of autism with greater household affluence? This isn’t the first study to reach that conclusion. But what does it mean? Many researchers dismiss research like this by saying wealthier people have more resources to get an autism diagnosis. They say more educated people are more likely to pick up subtle differences in their kids. And perhaps they’re right. Does that account for all the difference?

John Elder Robison, an author who has autism and serves on Autism Speaks’ Scientific and Treatment Advisory Boards, recently posed this question and offered his thoughts on Psychology Today.

Read more and comment on John’s post here.


  1. Sdinsmore
    August 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Maybe it’s education, low embriotic fluid, ear infections,older parents, or could it be fertility treatments? It is what it is… Find a cure already!

  2. Brigitt
    August 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I think it has to do with a greater sense of awareness in the more educated individuals. But let me throw this out there; is there a co-relation between intelligence and Autism? These individuals have the potential to be very intellegent given the proper education and development.

  3. August 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Let us not overlook the role that nutrition plays in our health. The medical professions have advanced dietary changes that cause individuals to avoid the foods that contain cholesterol and the many nutrients in these foods. The affluent are more likely to adopt those recommendations than the less affluent. The most nutritious food is eggs and they are the least expensive. The yolks contain all of the nutrients found to be deficient in autistic children and I have found in my studies that more than 90% of autistic children eat very few eggs. Less than one a day and 43% feed none. The state of West Virginia has been reported to have the lowest incidence of autism and would be less affluent and much more likely to eat the cheaper foods. Those in the silicon valley, and Oregon have a high incidence and are much more likely to avoid eggs or the other foods that are from animal sources.

  4. Darla
    August 6, 2010 at 8:27 am

    The most likely is older parents, possibly with earlier diagnosis for wealthier parents. Or maybe money is toxic ;) Some of these studies have SO many lurking variables!

  5. terry
    August 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

    If the study found a correlation between affluence and likelihood of autism diagnosis, but the CDC says the prevalence is 1 in 10, is there a prevalence difference between affluent and low-income? Is it significant? Are there other confounding factors? It’s not enough to say that affluent families have more resources and may be more kid-focused than low-income families, although it may be true. MORE RESEARCH please!

  6. Katie Wright
    August 6, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Affluent parents are more likely to have good health care and better access to pediatricians. They are more likely to get all vaccinations in a timely manner.

  7. August 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    The affluent parents are more likely to both be well educated, more likely to provide a fast food type breakfast that is based on low fat and cholesterol free diets. The less affluent are more likely to provide meat, whole milk, and eggs for the children since eggs are much less expensive than cereals, pop tarts, and the like. Since the lowest incidence is found in areas like New Mexico, and West Virginia and among the Amish and the highest incidence is among those individuals that are more likely to follow the current recommendations of the food pyramid which teaches avoidance of cholesterol containing foods.

  8. BreeVW
    August 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    People lets remember one thing….Autism does not care how much money you have or how well educated you are. My daughter was three when diagnosed with Autism. This was after years of doctors telling me that her “quiks”, and abnormalities were normal. At this time I had two older children and new something was wrong. I am not rich, but middle class with good medical insurance. Lets look at the doctors who dissmiss a mothers concern, and Insurance red tape that takes an act of Congress to let you change doctors or get a second opinion.

  9. Alma Maynes
    September 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Has anyone looked into how many of the children were cared for by nannies? Watching nannies in my daughter’s neighborhood, they do NOT talk to the small babies…..they ignore them, which is prevelant in their culture. As a public school teacher, the source of most nannies in the Southwest is from a culture where this is usual. When the children of this culture enter school, they are not fluent in English, and NOT fluent in their own language. It was a startling outcome of testing. Most children I had who would have been diagnosed as austic (I taught before it was known) were from homes where they were neglected most of the day, as infants. This information came from neighbors, or previous teachers. The smallest infant needs to be talked to, and learns to comunicate very early even before they can talk. Many affluent mothers are taught in school that their career is more important than family, and resent having to stay home with the babies. This view that I have is from 30 years of elementary school teaching, and talking to many working mothers about their childcare. I’m not a doctor, just very interested in the problem.

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