Worldwide inequality and autism

A cross reference analysis of the relationship between autism and socioeconomic stratification in other developed and developing countries demonstrates an association between social inequality and autism prevalence. Rising populations and stratified resource allocation has been overshadowed by national economic advancement in favor of global expansion which promotes global stratification. The United States, China, India, and the United Kingdom have experienced economic expansion with coinciding record breaking income gaps and stratification (Qu, 2010, Elliot & Curtis, 2009).

In fact, income inequality in China, America and India during the mid 90’s was relatively similar (Weihua, 2010. Elliot & Curtis, 2009). Economic powerhouses compete in the global market through exploitation of subordinate members of society. Qu (2010) recognized India amongst the top four nations with the highest number of billionaires. Contrastingly, an astonishing 836 million Indian citizens live on less than 50 cents a day. Like The United States, China and India are also major contributors of world poverty (Borooah et al., 2005).

Collecting precise autism rates from other countries is conceivably impossible (varied diagnostic standards and service accessibility) but even rough estimates could contribute clues to an underlying pathway in which autism develops. The 2007 Burden of Disease Report conducted by the World Health Organization reported statistics which indicate China, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States as countries with comparable rates of autism. Although the official prevalence of autism in the UK reportedly affects around 1% of births, a population based study conducted in Cambridge placed the prevalence of autism at 1 in every 66 births (Baron et al., 2009). An estimated 1-2.6 million Chinese citizens (as high as 1 in 100) qualify for a spectrum disorder (Autism Society 2010 & Hornby, 2009). China’s income gap began to widen following reform in 1978, autism has been documented in China since 1982. There has been a considerable amount of reluctance by Chinese officials to address the rising prevalence of autism due to national standards of perfection (Qu, 2010). Autism was not even recognized as a disability in China until 2006 (Hornby, 2009, Weihua, 2010). In turn, public awareness of autism characteristics remains considerably low as China maintains a severe shortage of diagnostic tools and qualified professionals to diagnose spectrum disorders (Qu, 2010). Due to aforementioned circumstances, there is a significant likelihood that the prevalence of autism in China is under reported. For the same reasons, under reporting is also likely to be true in India, with well over 4 million (at least 1 in every 125) children affected (Chatterjee, 2007). Nielson (2011) reported that women across the world live with much higher levels of stress; but Indian women are the most stressed in the world- 87% of Indian women reported feeling stressed most of the time. A population based study which focuses on maternal demographics is direly needed in India and may shed additional light on the relationship between maternal stress and autism.


In 2008, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported South Korea has the third widest income gap and the widest gender income gap in the developed world. On average, males earn 38% more than females. Wealth disparity has widened since 1998 as low income households experience slow income growth, an inopportune job market, and rising costs of goods and services (Hyo-sik, 2008). Gender roles across the developed and developing world are changing to accommodate increasing environmental demands. The new gender ideal in South Korea is the “alpha female”, a woman who can balance pregnancy/child rearing while keeping up the home and performing well in a prestigious career field (Li, 2011). A five- year population based study conducted by researchers from South Korea, America, and Canada revealed higher autism rates in South Korea than anticipated, 1 in 38 (Young Shin Kim et al., 2011). Notably, the target sample consisted of children between 7-12 years of age, which raises questions about the prevalence of younger age cohorts. Population over clinical sample results evidence underestimation of autism prevalence in the United States. However, a differential factor of autism prevalence between South Korea and the United States could be gender income gap disparity.



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