To examine changes in parental labor force participation, hours of work, and annual earnings associated with childhood autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
We used the 2002–2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine parental labor market outcomes of children with ASD relative to children with another health limitation and children without health limitations. A logit model was used to estimate parental labor force participation. A tobit model was used to estimate parental hours of work and earnings.
On average, mothers of children with ASD earn 35% ($7189) less than the mothers of children with another health limitation and 56% ($14 755) less than the mothers of children with no health limitation. They are 6% less likely to be employed and work 7 hours less per week, on average, than mothers of children with no health limitation. There were no statistically significant differences in fathers’ labor market outcomes across 3 groups. On average, children with ASD are 9% less likely to have both parents working. Family earnings of children with ASD are 21% ($10 416) less than those of children with another health limitation and 28% ($17 763) less than those of children with no health limitation. Family weekly hours of work are an average of 5 hours less than those of children with no health limitation.
Families of children with ASD face significant economic burden. Given the substantial health care expenses associated with ASD, the economic impact of having lower income in addition to these expenses is substantial. It is essential to design universal health care and workplace policies that recognize the full impact of autism.