Autism Spectrum Disorders

Publication Date:

Nov 04, 2018

Key facts about autism spectrum disorders

  • The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among U.S. children ages 3 to 17 was 2.5 percent in 2016.
  • Male children have almost four times the prevalence of ASDs as females.
  • Black children have the highest prevalence of ASDs (2.8 percent) among the race/ethnicity categories examined for this indicator.

Trends in autism spectrum disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) include autism, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders. In a nationally representative survey, the prevalence of a current ASD diagnosis among children ages 2 to 17, as reported by parents, grew from approximately 1.0 to 1.8 percent from 2007 to 2011/12. This translates to a 72 percent increase in four years, and an estimated additional 493,000 U.S. children with ASD. In 2016, the prevalence of a current ASD diagnosis among children ages 3 to 17 was 2.5 percent. However, 2016 estimates are not directly comparable to those from earlier years because they measure a slightly different age range. A separate estimate, derived from health and education records in 11 study sites around the United States, put the average prevalence of ASD among 8-year-olds in 2014 at more than 1 percent (17 per thousand)1 However, changes over time in the definition and identification of these conditions, including increased physician and parental awareness, complicate efforts to assess changes in prevalence (Appendix 1).2

Differences by gender

The proportion of boys with an ASD diagnosis is more than four times greater than that of their female peers. In 2016, the estimated prevalence among males was 3.9 percent, compared with 1.1 percent among females (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin3

In 2016, a slightly higher proportion of non-Hispanic black children had an ASD diagnosis, as reported by parents, than did non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic Asian children. This is a change from previous years, when non-Hispanic white children had the highest proportion of ASD diagnoses. Among non-Hispanic white children, the prevalence of an ASD diagnosis was 2.6 percent; among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children, the prevalence was 2.4 and 2.8 percent, respectively. The prevalence for non-Hispanic Asian children was 1.3 percent, marking 2016 as the first year there were enough cases to report a reliable estimate of prevalence for this group (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

Estimates by state from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health are available from the Data Resource for Child & Adolescent Health at http://www.childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=4675&r=1.

Prevalence data for sites participating in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (14 states in 2008, 11 states 2010-2016) are available at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.html.

International Estimates

Prevalence data from studies conducted in select countries are available from the National Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/documents/ASDPrevalenceDataTable2016.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data Source

Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. (2018). National Survey of Children’s Health interactive data query [Data tool]. Retrieved from www.childhealthdata.org.

Raw data source

National Survey of Children’s Health.
http://childhealthdata.org/learn/NSCH

Appendices

Appendix 1. Estimated Number and Percentage Distribution of Children Ages 3 to 17 Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), United States: Select Years, 2007-2016

Background

Definition

Autism Spectrum Disorders include autism, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders, as reported by parents.4

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Autism spectrum disorders. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/autism-spectrum-disorders.

Endnotes

1. Baio, J., Wiggins, L., Christensen, D. L., Maenner, M. J., Daniels, J., et al. (2018). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years — Autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 Sites, United States, 2014. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/pdfs/ss6706a1-H.pdf.
2. Ibid.
3. Hispanic children may be of any race. Estimates for white and black children do not include Hispanic children.
4. Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. (2018). National Survey of Children’s Health interactive data query [Data tool]. Retrieved from www.childhealthdata.org.