Study Shows Poor Kids Less Likely to Recieve Autism Diagnosis

Poorer kids from lower-income neighborhoods are 20-40% less likely to be diagnosed with autism than children from wealthier families, according to a new study by Yale and Columbia University researchers. This incongruity in diagnosis rates continues despite ongoing advances in early-detection methods and increased public awarenes of autism spectrum disorders.

From Businessweek:

“The researchers found that between 1992 and 2000, a child in a poor family who lived in a more affluent neighborhood was about 250 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than a child from an equally poor family who lived in a poorer neighborhood.

When the researchers analyzed autism cases by severity, they found that children with less severe autism who were born in 1992 and lived in wealthier and more educated neighborhoods were 90 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.”

One suspected cause of the diagnostic disparity is lack of access to information by low-income parents and caregivers who are less mobile and have limited early-childhood resources where they live.  According to study co-author, Dr. Peter Bearman,

We know that parents talking to each other about navigating the service system and talking to each other about how to understand developmental dynamics are really strongly associated with increased autism diagnoses…the guess is that in wealthier neighborhoods, there are more opportunities for parents to be talking to each other at parks, schools, and other focal points.”

Advocacy organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Autism Speaks have been at the forefront of those working for large-scale public education on the early warning signs of autism spectrum disorders, as well as the evolving medical and therapeutic resources available to families of children with ASDs. Nevertheless, poorer children are still not benefiting from the breakthroughs being made, largely also due to lack of quality and affordable healthcare.

AS Dr. Bearman writes, “I think you would like to reduce health disparities…so, in order to reduce the health disparity — or really the service disparity — we would need to allocate more resources to increase ascertainment to get children into treatment.”


Photo from Wikimedia commons


Grace Johnson
Grace Johnson6 years ago

not surprising only $$ matters in the health care field today

Thomas W.
Thomas W6 years ago

Poor children, poor families, are always less likely to be diagnosed with any disease. Poor people in general do not have access to proper medical care, that is why we need a national health care system, where everyone has the same coverage.The job of the government is to protect its people and ensure a prosperous nation. What better way to do that than to provide equal health care for all. Healther people are far more likely to be in the workforce, not out of it. Healthier people are for more likely to be educated, productive members of society. Would one less aircraft carrier, or stealth fighter, make us anymore Vulnerable? .60 cents of every dollar goes to defense, .06 cents for all of Health & human services, .04 cents for Education. Now tell me is that liberty and justice for all???

Jeremiah Holes6 years ago

I wonder what treatments include. I love autistic kids so much - it's hard for me to think of it as a disadvantage. It seems more to be just different, more so than bad. If there isn't much funding then perhaps it wouldn't cost much to at least disperse information on how to interact and teach autistic kids. I mean individual citizens could even do that much.

Stefan Dwornik
Stefan Dwornik6 years ago

And thanks to a government of the wealthy/corporate, they are going to take even more away from children. Hell, to these disgusting government "representatives(?)', all 3 branches, a sick/ challenged poor child regardless of race is irrelevant. Why does medicare get around 23% in entitlements, and the petroleum industry receive nearly 70% in entitlements? Sounds kinda of off course, if you really are moving toward "green & clean". Money, and power seems to be all that matters to the governments of the last 10 years, and yet we do nothing to really change the direction we are headed.

Mary Marchetti
Mary Marchetti6 years ago

In general, those in a lower socioeconomic stratum tend to be more affected by a variety of health conditions, many of which are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Lack of access to health-care (pre-natal, peri-natal, childhood, adult, older adult), as well as less access to information about health issues contribute to this, among other things. It's a terrible disparity, and it perpetuates itself -- those with less access will have more problems will have inadequate access for those problems and will create worse problems and so on, that go through the generations. We need better access to healthcare for all.

Alessia C.
Alessia C.6 years ago

that theory is absurd

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p6 years ago

not really surprising.

Pat L.
Patricia L6 years ago

This is another no brainer that didn't require a study to figure out. My best friend teaches special ed students in an alternative school in a poor neighborhood. Many of these kids have had no vaccinations, have neither parent living at home with them, live in transient housing with relatives or friends who are little more than children themselves. Many are victims of trauma such as physical, mental or sexual abuse, have a sibling or relative in prison or on drugs. Most parents I know who've had their kids diagnosed as autistic spent a lot of time playing with & observing their children. Children in poor circumstances are usually fighting for a hot meal, have no one reading to them or paying the attention required to notice the baby or child may not be responding the way a child at that age should be. Duh, poverty stinks, poor children get the short end of the stick and end up in special ed when many, many times they are just victims of their circumstances and have never been held or nurtured like most middle class, educated families treat their children. Yes, poverty fosters many diseases, the biggest one being apathy and lack of hope. We all know this, but tell me if a study has been conducted on how to end poverty and how to save these children? I know the Republican answer is to cut programs, cut welfare and child welfare programs and hope they will all just wither away. Surely there is a better answer. When you find out, let me know.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

It should make children in schools serving poor neighborhoods easier to manage if the children's health problems including mental health were correctly diagnosed and treated.

Robert Shelby
Robert Shelby6 years ago

Angela, i comes before e except after c. Remember? "Receive."