For John, BLUF: A researcher may have found a clue to the puzzle of increased autism.
Out at the University of Chicago researcher Hays Golden has written a paper titled Childhood Autism and Assortative Mating. Did that title help? I am not sure the Abstract, below, will help:
Diagnosed rates of autism spectrum disorders have grown tremendously over the last few decades. I find that assortative mating may have meaningfully contributed to the rise. I develop a general model of genes and assortative mating which shows that small changes in sorting could have large impacts on the extremes of genetic distributions. I apply my theory to autism, which I model as the extreme right tail of a genetic formal thinking ability distribution (systemizing). Using large sample data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I find strong support for theories that autism is connected to systemizing. My mating model shows that increases in the returns to systemizing, particularly for women, can contribute significantly to rising autism rates. I provide evidence that mating on systemizing has actually shifted, and conclude with a rough calculation suggesting that despite the increase in autism, increased sorting on systemizing has been socially beneficial.What helped me was the first two pages at the link, in which the author says that with more people going to college, men and women with similar genes are more likely to meet, be attracted to each other and procreate. Thus, those more inclined to a "structured" approach to life are less able to deal with the messiness of human interaction. From the article:
One of the more interesting possibilities is that ASDs are related to a genetic trait called systemizing, which governs how much our brains are wired for thinking about formal systems. High levels of systemizing may give ability in pursuits like mathematics and computer languages. In this view, ASDs occur when someone has too much systemizing: when their brains are so wired for formal systems that they begin to have trouble dealing with systems that do not follow strict rules.Hat tip to the InstaPundit for this 6 November 2012 item.
Regards — Cliff