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Autism Rates Inversely Tied to County’s Wealth

Wealthy California parents may have more access to private care, treatment

FRIDAY, April 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are declining among wealthy whites in California while escalating among poor and minority children, according to a study published online March 19 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Cynthia Nevison, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and William Parker, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, used data from the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) for birth years 1993 to 2013 to estimate county-level prevalence of ASD.

The researchers found that ASD prevalence increased among all children across birth years 1993 to 2000 but plateaued or declined thereafter among whites from wealthy counties. However, among whites from lower-income counties and Hispanics from all counties, ASD rates increased continuously from 1993 to 2013. There was an inverse correlation between both white ASD prevalence and rate of change in prevalence with county income from birth year 2000 to 2013 but not 1993 to 2000. Incidence among blacks increased rapidly across California, reaching the highest rates among any ethnic or racial group (1.8 percent in birth year 2013).

“These disparate trends within the dataset suggest that wealthy white parents, starting around 2000, may have begun opting out of DDS in favor of private care and/or making changes that effectively lowered their children’s risk of ASD,” the authors write.

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