Economists say the more doctors diagnose autism the more money they earn
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sept. 10, 2014) — Mental health professionals might be over diagnosing autism, according to a study by University of Louisville researcher Jose Fernandez, an economics associate professor, and Dhaval Dave, an economics professor at Bentley University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The economists used market theory to study the trend in autism growth by analyzing the number and wages of auxiliary health providers based on California Department of Developmental Services data from 2002 to 2011. Each time autism cases doubled, the number of autism health providers grew by as much as 14 percent over that of non-autism health providers, they found.
The wages of autism health providers also rose higher, increasing up to 11 percent more.
“We focused on auxiliary providers because, unlike physicians and psychologists who can diagnose autism, these workers cannot induce their own demand,” Fernandez said.
The pair also found that although autism supplanted mental retardation in one of every three diagnoses during the period, actual autism cases still grew from 50 percent to 65 percent.
The study will be published in the online journal Economic Inquiry.