Mothers of autistic children earn significantly less than other mothers according to a new study that is the first to look at how special-needs children effect the wages of parents nationally.
On average, mothers of children diagnosed with autism earned 35 percent less than the mothers of children with another health limitation, and 56 percent less than the mothers of children with no health issues.
In raw dollars, mothers of autistic children earned, on average, $20,479 annually. That’s, $7,189 less than mothers of children with another health limitation and $14,755 less than mothers of children with no health issues, according to the analysis published online today in the journal Pediatrics.
“Implications of Childhood Autism for Parental Employment and Earnings” was written by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Their explanation for the wage gap echoes a common frustration for parents of autistic children:
“It is likely that because the systems that care for children with autism are so fragmented, many more challenges are raised for families in attending to the ongoing needs of their children. Parents are called on to serve as their child’s caregiver, case manager, and advocate and to navigate numerous bureaucracies to obtain essential services for their child,” the report said.
Interestingly, the researchers found that autism had no discernible effect on a father’s earnings.
It seems mothers, primarily, are tasked with tackling the autism bureaucracy. The analysis also found that these mothers were also less likely to work outside the home and when they did work, they did so for fewer hours.
The lost family earnings are a double-blow, the researchers point out because:
“Given the substantial health care expenses associated with [Autism Spectrum Disorder], the economic impact of having lower income in addition to these expenses is substantial.
“It is essential to design universal health care and workplace policies that recognize the full impact of autism.”
Do you have an autistic child? How has your professional life been affected?