IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/12632.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Does Television Cause Autism?

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Waldman
  • Sean Nicholson
  • Nodir Adilov

Abstract

Autism is currently estimated to affect approximately one in every 166 children, yet the cause or causes of the condition are not well understood. One of the current theories concerning the condition is that among a set of children vulnerable to developing the condition because of their underlying genetics, the condition manifests itself when such a child is exposed to a (currently unknown) environmental trigger. In this paper we empirically investigate the hypothesis that early childhood television viewing serves as such a trigger. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey, we first establish that the amount of television a young child watches is positively related to the amount of precipitation in the child's community. This suggests that, if television is a trigger for autism, then autism should be more prevalent in communities that receive substantial precipitation. We then look at county-level autism data for three states -- California, Oregon, and Washington -- characterized by high precipitation variability. Employing a variety of tests, we show that in each of the three states (and across all three states when pooled) there is substantial evidence that county autism rates are indeed positively related to county-wide levels of precipitation. In our final set of tests we use California and Pennsylvania data on children born between 1972 and 1989 to show, again consistent with the television as trigger hypothesis, that county autism rates are also positively related to the percentage of households that subscribe to cable television. Our precipitation tests indicate that just under forty percent of autism diagnoses in the three states studied is the result of television watching due to precipitation, while our cable tests indicate that approximately seventeen percent of the growth in autism in California and Pennsylvania during the 1970s and 1980s is due to the growth of cable television. These findings are consistent with early childhood television viewing being an important trigger for autism. We also discuss further tests that can be conducted to explore the hypothesis more directly.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Waldman & Sean Nicholson & Nodir Adilov, 2006. "Does Television Cause Autism?," NBER Working Papers 12632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12632
    Note: CH HC
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12632.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 69-85, Fall.
    2. John J. Donohue III & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420.
    3. Eric I. Knudsen & James J. Heckman & Judy L. Cameron & Jack P. Shonkoff, 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America's Future Workforce," NBER Working Papers 12298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-290, June.
    5. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
    6. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2005. "Data Watch: The American Time Use Survey," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 221-232, Winter.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Ariel R. Belasen & Solomon W. Polachek, 2009. "How Disasters Affect Local Labor Markets: The Effects of Hurricanes in Florida," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
    2. Samrat Bhattacharya & Abdul Munasib, 2008. "Effect of Television on Child Cognitive Outcome," Economics Working Paper Series 0804, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
    3. Michael Waldman & Sean Nicholson & Nodir Adilov, 2012. "Positive and Negative Mental Health Consequences of Early Childhood Television Watching," NBER Working Papers 17786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Bhatt, Rachana, 2010. "The impact of public library use on reading, television, and academic outcomes," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 148-166, September.
    5. Munasib, Abdul & Bhattacharya, Samrat, 2010. "Is the 'Idiot's Box' raising idiocy? Early and middle childhood television watching and child cognitive outcome," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 873-883, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Lists

    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Papers and articles using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS)

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12632. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.