An Economic and Rational Choice Approach to the Autism Spectrum and Human Neurodiversity

37 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011  

Tyler Cowen

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 22, 2011

Abstract

This paper considers an economic approach to autistic individuals, as a window for understanding autism, as a new and growing branch of neuroeconomics (how does behavior vary with neurology?), and as a foil for better understanding non-autistics and their cognitive biases. The relevant economic predictions for autistics involve greater specialization in production and consumption, lower price elasticities of supply and demand, a higher return from choosing features of their environment, less effective use of social focal points, and higher relative returns as economic growth and specialization proceed. There is also evidence that autistics are less subject to framing effects and more rational on the receiving end of ultimatum games. Considering autistics modifies some of the standard results from economic theories of the family and the economics of discrimination. Although there are likely more than seventy million autistic individuals worldwide, the topic has been understudied by economists. An economic approach also helps us see shortcomings in the "pure disorder" models of autism.

Keywords: Neuroeconomics, autism, neurodiversity, rational choice theory

JEL Classification: A12, B41

Suggested Citation

Cowen, Tyler, An Economic and Rational Choice Approach to the Autism Spectrum and Human Neurodiversity (December 22, 2011). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-58. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1975809 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1975809

Tyler Cowen (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-1130 (Phone)
703-993-1133 (Fax)

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