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WMJ. 2009 Aug;108(5):253-5.

Socioeconomic disparity in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in Wisconsin.

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Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI 53726, USA.



The number of children receiving services for autism spectrum disorders in Wisconsin and nationally has steadily increased in recent years. The Wisconsin Surveillance of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities System was developed to study the prevalence of and risk factors for autism spectrum disorders. This analysis of Wisconsin surveillance data examined whether autism prevalence is positively associated with socioeconomic status.


Surveillance methods developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used to determine the number of 8-year-old children with an autism spectrum disorder in a 10-county area of southeastern Wisconsin in 2002. Socioeconomic status quintiles were created based on census block group indicators. Autism prevalence was computed for each socioeconomic status quintile of the population.


Using educational attainment as an indicator of socioeconomic status, autism spectrum disorder prevalence increased from 2.6 per 1000 in the lowest to 6.8 per 1000 in the highest education quintile. The prevalence ratio for the highest to lowest education quintile was 2.6:1 (95% confidence interval: 1.6, 4.5). Using median household income as an indicator of socioeconomic status produced similar results.


Autism spectrum disorder prevalence is positively associated with socioeconomic status based on population-based surveillance in Wisconsin.

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