Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Social class and autism

From a new study on the increasing prevalence of autism:
The prevalence of autism has increased precipitously—roughly 10-fold in the past 40 years—yet no one knows exactly what caused this dramatic rise. Using a large and representative dataset that spans the California birth cohorts from 1992 through 2000, we examine individual and community resources associated with the likelihood of an autism diagnosis over time. This allows us to identify key social factors that have contributed to increased autism prevalence. While individual-level factors, such as birth weight and parental education, have had a fairly constant effect on likelihood of diagnosis over time, we find that community-
level resources drive increased prevalence.
The researchers conclude that the epidemic is the result of a greater probability of being diagnosed, and that until recently, diagnosis depended heavily on having money and living in better-off communities where the focus on autism began. Social class factors have been more important for less severe cases of autism where diagnosis was less obvious. 

Other factors that are associated with a greater risk: higher parental education, low birth weight, being male (of course), being first-born, having older parents, and not being on Medi-Cal.

I find it odd that race and ethnicity were not examined. It's a California sample, you're focusing on social class, and you don't control for race and Hispanicity? Maybe it doesn't matter, but they don't seem to address it. Being on Medi-Cal matters, and it is correlated with NAMishness. And of course there is no mention of the possibility that social class might be associated with genes implicated in autism. Everyone just knows that social class has nothing whatsoever to do with genes. It's the same old story that class reflects privilege and access and nothing more.

6 comments:

Jim Bowery said...

Ask anyone who has it good within the current social experiment conducted on entire populations without informed consent:

Any negative societal symptoms are basically reporting increase -- that is unless it is easily attributable to some group that really resents having been experimented on without their consent.

Any positive societal symptom is due to the experimental treatment of the population so those who are pissed about not having given their consent are just ignorant.

SFG said...

They have been diagnosing it more, though. Not that Jim's not right about about the social experiment.

SFG said...

More seriously, you've probably got a combination of increased diagnosis and nerdy traits being useful in small doses (being studious raises grades, etc.) but harmful with assortative mating.

Perhaps it's a result of feminism, with male nerds swallowing the Kool-Aid more than more instinctually driven men and becoming convinced they want intelligent women rather than cute ones?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's a result of feminism, with male nerds swallowing the Kool-Aid more than more instinctually driven men and becoming convinced they want intelligent women rather than cute ones?

Male "nerds" haven't been reproducing much these past couple generations.

And before that, not only would male "nerds" reproduce more, they would grow up in very homogeneous areas, and assort and mate with women very close to them genetically. They would not have been much different in intelligence and psychology.

SFG said...

"And before that, not only would male "nerds" reproduce more, they would grow up in very homogeneous areas, and assort and mate with women very close to them genetically. They would not have been much different in intelligence and psychology."

Yeah, but they wouldn't be marrying nerdy women. They'd be marrying whoever they got, which was likely more random, so you'd have no assortative mating for nerdy traits. Ethnic groups tend to have a variety of personality types within the group, though of course differences in the frequency of each type give us the ethnic traits we all know and love. (There are black nerds, just not as many as asian nerds.)

Nerds aren't reproducing? Have you been to an anime convention? Whitest bunch I've ever seen (irony of ironies), and they seem to have dorky-looking girlfriends now, which I never saw in the old days.

Anonymous said...

They'd be marrying whoever they got, which was likely more random, so you'd have no assortative mating for nerdy traits. Ethnic groups tend to have a variety of personality types within the group, though of course differences in the frequency of each type give us the ethnic traits we all know and love.

It wasn't necessarily "more random" than it is today. They were in very homogeneous areas, and assorted and mated with women very close to them genetically. There's not much reason to believe that they would have been very different in intelligence and psychology.

Nerds aren't reproducing? Have you been to an anime convention? Whitest bunch I've ever seen (irony of ironies), and they seem to have dorky-looking girlfriends now, which I never saw in the old days.

Nerds going to anime conventions (some with even GFs with them) is evidence of nerds reproducing at any significant level? Anime conventions are the last things you would associate with reproductive success.