The spatial structure of autism in California, 1993-2001

Health Place. 2010 May;16(3):539-46. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.12.014. Epub 2010 Jan 22.


This article identifies significant high-risk clusters of autism based on residence at birth in California for children born from 1993 to 2001. These clusters are geographically stable. Children born in a primary cluster are at four times greater risk for autism than children living in other parts of the state. This is comparable to the difference between males and females and twice the risk estimated for maternal age over 40. In every year roughly 3% of the new caseload of autism in California arises from the primary cluster we identify-a small zone 20 km by 50 km. We identify a set of secondary clusters that support the existence of the primary clusters. The identification of robust spatial clusters indicates that autism does not arise from a global treatment and indicates that important drivers of increased autism prevalence are located at the local level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk
  • Small-Area Analysis