Youth from households with lower incomes also were significantly more likely to be disengaged, even after controlling for measures of impairment severity. This finding highlights the value of using population-based data relative to smaller clinical samples that often lack diversity. It also builds on previous findings in another examination of youth with an ASD after high school that found those with lower socioeconomic status had poorer behavioral outcomes after high school. The association between a lack of financial resources and poorer postsecondary outcomes among youth with an ASD also mirrors previous findings that found African-American individuals and those from poorer households to be at increased risk for disengagement from therapeutic services after leaving high school.
An emerging pattern of findings across a range of outcome measures suggests poorer youth with an ASD have very different life chances after leaving high school than more affluent peers. Income inequality and poverty rates have been increasing nationwide in recent years. In 2009, 20% of US children lived below the federal poverty line. Given current estimates of ASD prevalence and the poverty rate, ∼163 000 children with an ASD were living below the poverty line in 2009. Future research needs to examine how financial resources influence developmental trajectories and what interventions are needed to help poorer youth overcome barriers to accessing services and achieving fuller participation in society.