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Parental skills, assortative mating, and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder

Meltem Daysal, N., Elder, Todd E., K. Hellerstein, Judith, A. Imberman, Scott and Orsini, Chiara (2023) Parental skills, assortative mating, and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Health Economics. ISSN 2332-3493 (In Press)

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Identification Number: 10.1086/724794


We assess theories that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is heritable and transmitted through parental skills using data from Denmark. We construct parental skill measures by mapping Danish occupations to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) survey of U.S. occupations and principal factor analysis. We find that fathers’ skills are linked to ASD in children. A one standard deviation increase in a systems and ordering skills factor correlates with a modest but statistically significant 0.041 percentage-point (2.4%) increase in ASD incidence. There is a negative and slightly larger relationship with communication skills. ASD also is similarly correlated with Deming’s (2017) routineness and social skills measures, and fathers again play larger roles. We also find evidence consistent with Baron-Cohen (2002) whereby extreme personality traits in parents affect ASD incidence; having two parents with high systems and ordering relative to communication skills leads to a 35% higher diagnosis rate than having parents with “balanced” skills. While all of these estimates are meaningful given the costs of ASD, they only explain a small fraction of variation in ASD diagnoses. Finally, although assortative mating on skills exists, we cannot detect a role for it in recent dramatic increases in ASD.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 University of Chicago Press.
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 14:48
Last Modified: 20 May 2024 10:12

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