New data analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that among 8-year-olds in the U.S., one in 44 has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The new report was compiled from data in nearly a dozen states across the U.S. in 2018. In 2016, the number was one in 54 children.

Experts believe this increase in diagnoses of ASD doesn't mean an increase in the number of affected children; it's more likely that the new number is more accurate due to awareness and a wider availability of healthcare and additional services for children with ASD.

A separate CDC report released Thursday said that children were 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ASD by age 4 in 2018 than in 2014.

“There is some progress being made and the earlier kids get identified, the earlier they can access services that they might need to improve their developmental outcome,” said CDC researcher and co-author of the data analysis, Kelly Shaw.

The CDC data in question was gathered from counties and other communities in 11 states—some of these communities were more urban than others. ASD rates tend to be higher in more urban areas due to a more dense population, the authors said.

The CDC tracks the prevalence of ASD via their Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. This database consists of the medical and special education records of 4-8-year-olds living in one of the 11 regions outlined in the latest report.

The report shows varying rates of ASD diagnoses by state, too. In California, 1 in 26 children was diagnosed with ASD, compared to 1 in 60 children in Missouri. Eight-year-old boys were four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls of the same age. 

Overall, autism prevalence was similar across racial and ethnic lines, but rates were higher among Black children in two sites, Maryland and Minnesota. Hispanic children were less likely to be diagnosed when compared to their Black and white counterparts.

Children in Utah from lower-income families had higher rates of ASD diagnoses than those from wealthier families. Previously, experts determined that children from higher-income families had higher rates of ASD, but now they say Medicare and private insurance companies offer more coverage for ASD services than in previous years.