2017 Political Economy Seminar Series
Toby Rogers (University of Sydney), ‘The Political Economy of Autism’
Date: Thursday 7 September 2017
Location: Merewether Seminar Room 498, University of Sydney
Abstract: Autism is a global epidemic. An estimated 1 in 40 children in Australia, 1 in 64 children in the U.K., and 1 in 45 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder. This is an enormous increase from the first known autism prevalence study in the U.S. in 1970, which established an autism prevalence rate of less than 1 per 10,000. Several studies have shown that changes in diagnostic criteria account for only a small fraction of the increased prevalence. The economic impacts of this epidemic are enormous. A 2014 study from the London School of Economics shows that autism spectrum disorders currently cost the U.K. more than heart disease, cancer, and stroke combined. A study from U.C. Davis estimates that autism cost the U.S. $268 billion (1.5% of GDP) in 2015; it also projects that if autism continues to increase at its current rate, autism will cost the U.S. over $1 trillion (3.6% of GDP) in 2025. At the same time, several groups of leading doctors and epidemiologists including Project TENDR, the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment have all published statements declaring that toxicants in the environment are contributing to rising autism prevalence. Yet governments have thus far failed to ban or restrict the substances that have been implicated. Given the size of the problem and the growing evidence about factors that increase the risk of developing autism, what explains why public health authorities, thus far, have failed to engage in autism prevention strategies? This paper will also explore the question of what is to be done?
About the speaker: Toby Rogers is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. Prior to coming to Australia Toby worked for twenty years for a variety of progressive non-profit advocacy groups in the U.S., including the successful campaign for LGBT marriage equality in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley where he was a graduate student instructor and researcher for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
Contact: Gareth Bryant, firstname.lastname@example.org