Somali Autism

Approximately one in 88 children has been diagnosed with autism, but in Minnesota, one in 32 Somali children and one in 36 white children have the condition.

A recent study–the Minneapolis Somali Autism Spectrum Disorder Project–reviewed the diagnosis paperwork to make sure the autism diagnoses were accurate, and concluded that they are. They did not go interviewing kids in search of symptoms, just looked at the records of people who’d already been diagnosed.

According to the NY Times, “But the Somali children were less likely than the whites to be “high-functioning” and more likely to have I.Q.s below 70. (The average I.Q. score is 100.) The study offered no explanation of the statistics.”

Well that one seems obvious: average Somali IQ is probably below 70.

Supply your own map if you feel like it
Average IQ by Country, from Memolition

Also, “While some children back home had the same problems children everywhere do, parents said, autism was so unfamiliar that there was no Somali word for it until “otismo” was coined in Minnesota.”

You might think it’s just something in the Minneapolis water supply, but another study, this one from Sweden, found something similar:

Children of migrant parents were at increased risk of low-functioning autism (odds ratio (OR) = 1.5, 95% CI 1.3-1.7); this risk was highest when parents migrated from regions with a low human development index, and peaked when migration occurred around pregnancy (OR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.7-3.0). A decreased risk of high-functioning autism was observed in children of migrant parents, regardless of area of origin or timing of migration. … Environmental factors associated with migration may contribute to the development of autism presenting with comorbid intellectual disability, especially when acting in utero. High- and low-functioning autism may have partly different aetiologies, and should be studied separately.

So what’s up with white kids with autism? Did they get screwed by migration, too?

There is one thing that Minneapolis and Sweden do have in common: lack of sunlight. Somalis may be particularly at risk of Vitamin D deficit, or some other disorder caused by differences in the night-day cycle at different latitudes.

But again, whites have similar rates of autism despite having had thousands of years to adjust to high-latitude winters, while African Americans, who ought to be more similar to the Somalis in their winter/light adaptions, have much lower rates.

In fact, I can’t really think of anything that whites in Minnesota and Somalis in Minnesota might have in common that they wouldn’t also have in common with African Americans in Minnesota. Or Sweden.

The obvious solution is that Somali autism might just be caused by totally different stuff than white autism. Perhaps migration itself caused the high Somali autism rates, or the stress and trauma of war and dislocation. Or it could have something to do with the Somali preference for cousin marriage, but perhaps the autistic kids never got noticed back in Somalia because of high infant mortality rates.



There’s been talk recently about how Europe (with its negative fertility rates) needs to do more to assist immigrants from countries where women have been having 7 children apiece and are suddenly running out of room. (These countries haven’t had enough food for decades.)

Perhaps I’m missing something, but why should Swedish citizens have their taxes raised to build more housing for non-swedes who chose to come to Sweden? Why should Brits have to send people down to fish boatloads of migrants out of the Mediterranean when their boats collapse? Shouldn’t the people who sent the boats be responsible for the people in them? If I have children, aren’t I responsible for my children? Why does all of this suddenly become Europe’s responsibility?

Ethiopia had 38 million people in 1983, at the beginning of the famine. By the end of the famine, in ’85, they had 41 million people. Today, they have 94 million people. No, they have not simultaneously doubled their ability to feed their people.

Where will those people go? Where will the food come from?

You cannot double the population of Ethiopia without expecting disaster. Yet this is what the Ethiopian people have chosen to do. Who will pay for it? The French?

The usual excuse here for self-destructive behavior is “colonialism.” Ethiopia was never colonized.

Next door, in can-totally-afford-it Somalia, women are having an average of 6 and a half children each. In Nigeria, 7 and a half. The DRC, one of the most dysfunctional, impoverished countries in the world, the kind of place where cannibalism still happens and you can’t even buy Coca Cola,* comes in at a modest 6 children per woman.

*You can buy Coca Cola almost anywhere on the planet except the DRC, because the roads there are just so bad that even capitalism cannot triumph.

Europe is, of course, already massively over-populated. Negative fertility rates are perfectly sensible until Europe, India, China, Japan, and the US populations drop to sustainable levels (unless you really like the idea of living in a post-apocalytic global wasteland.)

The planet cannot handle exponential growth. Even accepting all of the excess people from the places that cannot handle their own current growth levels will not solve the problem in either location. More food will not suddenly appear in Europe anymore than it will suddenly appear in Africa; we will not destroy the planet any slower by shipping people around–this will just speed it up.

We don’t need to stop having children. But we must be sane; countries cannot go having more than 3 per woman. The first step to preventing worldwide famine is birth control. Countries that have not been acting in good faith to not produce more children than they can feed have no basis to ask for international aid or to send out massive numbers of migrants and expect anyone to accept them.

Europe did not create Africa’s overpopulation problem and Europe cannot solve it. At best, Europe might solve Europe’s problems, but I haven’t a ton of hope for that.