51 Autism Statistics: How Many People Have Autism?

Imagine being unable to interpret facial expressions or understand metaphors. For millions of Americans, this is reality due to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This in-depth article explores the most up-to-date and compelling autism statistics in the United States, shedding light on just how many people are affected by this complex developmental disorder.

What Exactly is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental condition that affects how a person communicates, behaves, and interacts with others. The disorder presents itself in a wide range of symptoms and severity levels, which is why it is referred to as a “spectrum.”

At its core, autism is characterized by difficulties with social communication and interaction, as well as restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. However, the manifestation and degree of these challenges can vary greatly from one individual to another.

Some common symptoms of autism include:

  • Difficulty with back-and-forth conversation
  • Trouble understanding nonverbal cues like body language or facial expressions
  • Resistance to changes in routine or surroundings
  • Highly focused or intense interests in specific topics
  • Repetitive movements or behaviors (e.g., rocking, flapping hands)
  • Sensory sensitivities to sounds, textures, or lights

It’s important to dispel the misconception that all individuals with autism have intellectual disabilities or lack empathy. In fact, many are highly intelligent and capable of forming deep emotional connections, but may struggle with expressing themselves in conventional ways.

Prevalence of Autism in the United States

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 44 children in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. This equates to about 2.3% of the childhood population or over 1 million children across the country.

When looking at age groups, autism spectrum disorder is significantly more common among school-aged children than adults. However, this may be partially due to increased awareness and screening efforts targeting younger age groups.

One striking statistic about autism prevalence is the considerable difference between genders. The CDC reports that 1 in 27 boys are diagnosed with ASD, compared to 1 in 116 girls. The reasons for this disparity are not fully understood but could be linked to genetic, hormonal, or environmental factors.

Autism Statistics by State

Autism rates can vary across different states and regions of the United States. The map below shows the prevalence of autism among 8-year-old children by state, according to the latest CDC data:

As you can see, some states like New Jersey (1 in 28), Colorado (1 in 31), and Maryland (1 in 33) report higher rates of autism compared to others like Missouri (1 in 60) or Minnesota (1 in 67).

These differences could be influenced by various factors such as:

  • Socioeconomic status and access to screening/diagnosis
  • Differing ethnic/racial demographics
  • Varying environmental exposures
  • Differences in policies, resources, and awareness efforts across state lines

Let’s take a closer look at the autism prevalence rates of two example states:

New Jersey

  • Highest rate in the country at 1 in 28 children
  • Major advocacy efforts and early intervention programs
  • High population density and ethnic diversity


  • One of the lowest rates at 1 in 88 children
  • Rural areas may lack screening/diagnostic resources
  • Relatively small population size

Concerning Trends in Autism Diagnosis Rates

While the map shows a snapshot, it’s important to understand that autism diagnosis rates have been steadily rising over the past couple of decades across the United States.

“Autism prevalence increased by around 50% when the children in the United States were reassessed in 2016.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There are a few potential factors that could explain this trend:

  1. Earlier and More Frequent Screening: As awareness grows, more children are being evaluated for autism at younger ages.
  2. Broadening of Diagnostic Criteria: Shifting definitions of ASD to encompass a wider spectrum.
  3. Potential Environmental Influences: Some research suggests a possible link between environmental exposures (e.g. air pollution) and increased risk, though this is still being studied.
  4. Better Record Keeping and Data Collection: More comprehensive tracking of autism cases.

However, some experts argue that the rise simply reflects greater awareness, screening, and diagnosis rather than an actual increase in prevalence.

One controversial theory that has been repeatedly disproven is the claim that childhood vaccines cause autism. Numerous large-scale studies have found no link between vaccinations and ASD development.

Economic Impact of Autism

Beyond its personal impact, autism spectrum disorder also carries significant economic costs for families, healthcare systems, educational institutions, and society as a whole.

  • Annual Costs in the US: A 2015 study estimated that autism costs the nation $268 billion per year. This includes costs for medical care, special education services, decreased productivity, and more.
  • Lifetime Cost per Individual: On average, individuals with autism have higher expenditures of around $1.4 million across their lifespan compared to those without ASD.
  • Educational Costs: Students with autism often require specialized instruction, learning aids, classroom aides, and other educational resources and accommodations. These expenses add up quickly for school districts.
  • Healthcare Costs: Doctor visits, therapy sessions, psychiatric care, and medication for related conditions like anxiety or depression all contribute to high medical costs.
  • Loss of Productivity: Many adults on the autism spectrum face challenges finding and maintaining employment opportunities aligned with their skills, leading to underemployment or unemployment.

As you can see, the economic toll of autism is substantial. Early intervention programs and improved support services have the potential to offset some of these costs while enhancing quality of life.

Racial Disparities in Autism Diagnosis

Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities exist when it comes to the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in the United States.

While the overall prevalence is similar across racial groups, white children tend to receive an autism diagnosis at earlier ages compared to Black, Hispanic, or other minority children.

Average Age of Autism Diagnosis by Race/Ethnicity:  

White5.3 years
Black6.3 years
Hispanic6.6 years

There are several potential contributing factors to these diagnostic delays and disparities:

  • Access to Healthcare: Minority communities often face barriers like lack of insurance, transportation issues, or language differences.
  • Stigma and Cultural Attitudes: In some cultures, there may be a stigma around developmental disorders or a preference for more subtle symptoms to go unacknowledged.
  • Socioeconomic Status: Poverty can make it more difficult to navigate complex healthcare systems or afford costly evaluations and therapies.
  • Racial Bias: Unconscious biases among medical professionals may lead them to overlook or dismiss developmental concerns in minority children.

Ensuring equal access to autism screening, evaluation, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatments is crucial for promoting early intervention and better outcomes for all children affected by ASD, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Support and Resources for Autism

If you or a loved one is affected by autism spectrum disorder, know that there is a wide range of support services, programs, and resources available to help navigate the challenges:

Major Nonprofits and Advocacy Groups:

  • Autism Speaks
  • Autism Society of America
  • Autism Science Foundation
  • Autism Self-Advocacy Network

Government Services and Programs:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – Ensures free public education for children with disabilities like autism
  • Medicaid Waivers and Services – Provides funding for autism therapies, medications, respite care, etc.
  • Social Security Disability Benefits – Those with severe autism may qualify for monthly payments

Finding Local Support:

  • Autism Source Resource Finder – Search for autism services by state/zip code
  • Autism Society Affiliate Network


The statistics paint a clear picture – autism spectrum disorder affects a significant portion of the population in the United States, with prevalence rates continuing to rise year over year. From the economic costs to the challenges faced by individuals, families, educators, and healthcare providers, autism has a profound impact on American society.

To summarize some of the key autism statistics we covered:

  • 1 in 44 children in the U.S. has been identified with ASD (CDC)
  • Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls
  • Autism rates vary across different states, from 1 in 28 in New Jersey to 1 in 88 in Wyoming
  • The disorder cuts across all racial and ethnic groups, but disparities exist in age of diagnosis
  • $268 billion is the estimated annual cost of autism for the nation

While these numbers are staggering, it’s important to recognize that autism is not a tragedy – it is a neurological difference that comes with both strengths and difficulties. The principles of neurodiversity embrace the variations in how human minds process information.

By promoting greater awareness, continuing to fund autism research, and providing robust early intervention services and ongoing support, we can empower those on the spectrum to reach their full potential.

Each individual with autism spectrum disorder is unique, but they all deserve to have their needs met, their talents nurtured, and their voices heard as valued members of our communities. Whether it’s through volunteering,donating, or simply having more compassion – we can all play a role in creating a more inclusive world for those affected by ASD.


What percentage of people have autism? 

According to the latest CDC data, around 2.3% or 1 in 44 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder.

Is 1 in 100 people autistic?

No, current estimates suggest a higher prevalence rate. The CDC reports that about 1 in 44 children (or 2.3%) in the U.S. are on the autism spectrum.

What is level 1 autism in adults?

Level 1 autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder level 1, refers to individuals who require support and struggle with deficits in social communication and inflexible behaviors/routines, but their condition does not significantly impair their day-to-day functioning.

Will my 7 year old autistic child ever talk? 

It’s difficult to make generalized predictions, as every child with autism is unique. Some children on the spectrum remain non-verbal, while others develop verbal communication skills, even if delayed. With early intervention, therapy, and Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) tools when needed, many autistic children can acquire language abilities.

Can Level 3 autism improve? 

Yes, level 3 autism (requiring very substantial support) can potentially improve with comprehensive, evidence-based interventions personalized to the individual. Key areas like communication, behavior, daily living skills, and social interactions may all show progress over time with appropriate therapies and accommodations.

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