Economics Seminar Series: Scott A. Imberman, Michigan State University

Title: Parental Human Capital Traits and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

2018.07.31 | Bodil Krog

Date Mon 24 Sep
Time 10:15 11:15
Location Fuglesangs Allé 4, 8210 Aarhus V, building 2632(L), room 242

Presenter: Scott A. Imberman, Michigan State University

Title: Parental Human Capital Traits and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

Abstract: We examine whether and to what extent parental characteristics are related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses in children. A key insight we use in this paper is that parents’ underlying traits are reflected in their choices of occupation and educational field, opening new avenues to understand intergenerational transmission of developmental disorders. To this end, we combine data from multiple administrative datasets from Danish registers and use saturated regression models that include information on parental occupations, education, family relationships and ASD diagnoses of children born between 1995 and 2010. Our project makes two substantive contributions. We add to existing evidence on the relationship between characteristics of parents and ASD prevalence in children, and we provide the first large-scale empirical assessment of medical theories linking assortative mating to ASD prevalence. We follow Baron Cohen et al. (1997) by characterizing educational and occupational choices as reflecting a “systemizing” trait. We show that systemizing of fathers, but not mothers, is related to ASD diagnosis rates, even conditional on parental age at birth, education level, income, geographic location, and other controls. We also find similar results when we examine the link between systemizing of paternal and maternal grandfathers and ASD diagnoses of grandchildren. Given that this relationship appears to operate exclusively through the paternal line, we also find no evidence that assortative mating on the basis of systemizing is linked to ASD prevalence.

Organizer: Helena Skyt Nielsen

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