Is there an Economic Link to Autism Growth?

urlGrowth in autism diagnosis continues to increase. Since 1970, the prevalence rose from .5 to 14.7 per 1,000 children. The steady and stark increase in autism over the past three decades has left many skeptical of the number’s accuracy. How could autism increase at such an alarming rate? Many explained the growth in autism rates by attributing them to a flawed medical community heavily over-diagnosing the developmental disorder, but two economists recently published research that disproving this theory and demonstrating that the numbers are real.

Jose Fernadez and Dhaval Dave recently published their article, Rising Autism Prevalence, where they considered an economic perspective of measuring the prevalence of autism. They sought to examine whether or not the demand trajectory of health care professionals in developmental disabilities aligned with the rate of autism diagnosis.

The research used economic theory and market theory to analyze data from the California Department of Developmental Services. They found that each time autism cases doubled, the number of autism health providers grew by as much as 14% over that of non-autism health providers. They also found an increase of up to 11 percent in wages from autism health care providers.

“We focused on auxiliary providers because, unlike physicians and psychologists who can diagnose autism, these workers cannot induce their own demand,” Fernandez said. Fernandez and Dave also found that although autism replaced mental retardation in 1 of every 3 diagnoses during the 2002—2011 period studied, that actual autism cases increased from 50% to 65%.

Fernadez concluded that “at least part of the increase in the autism

caseload represents an effective increase in their demand given that we observe an increase in their wages. This further suggests that at least part of the increase in autism diagnoses, about one half to two-thirds based on the direct and indirect estimates of displacement, reflects an increase in the true prevalence of the disorder.”

You can find the direct article source here, or read other discussions of the article here.

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