The incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was determined in Harris County, Texas, for the period 1985 through 1988. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases were ascertained from four sources: area neurologists, hospitals, death certificates, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The age-adjusted incidences of 1.27 per 100,000 person-years in males and 1.03 per 100,000 person-years in females were lower than recent rates in the northern US, Canadian, and northern European studies but higher than rates in southern European studies. Comparisons with other recent incidence studies show less uniformity in occurrence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in both the overall rates and in the age- and sex-specific patterns, than was suggested by mortality studies. The incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis among blacks and whites was similar. Hispanic males had incidences similar to white males, although a deficit of female Hispanic cases was found in Harris County. The prevalence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis peaked in the 65- to 74-year age group at 33 per 100,000 population among males and 19 per 100,000 population for females.