More than 140,000 U.S. Children Lost a Primary or Secondary Caregiver Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Atlanta, GA–One U.S. child loses a parent or caregiver for every four COVID-19-associated deaths, a new modeling study published today in Pediatrics reveals.

The findings illustrate orphanhood as a hidden and ongoing secondary tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizes that identifying and caring for these children throughout their development is a necessary and urgent part of the pandemic response – both for as long as the pandemic continues, as well as in the post-pandemic era.

From April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, data suggest that more than 140,000 children under age 18 in the United States lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent caregiver who provided the child’s home and basic needs, including love, security, and daily care.

Overall, the study shows that approximately 1 out of 500 children in the United States has experienced COVID-19-associated orphanhood or death of a grandparent caregiver. There were racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in COVID-19-associated death of caregivers: children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65% of those who lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic.

The study was a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Imperial College London, Harvard University, Oxford University, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The study authors estimate that 120,630 children in the U.S. lost a primary caregiver, (a parent or grandparent responsible for providing housing, basic needs and care) due to COVID-19-associated death.  In addition, 22,007 children experienced the death of a secondary caregiver (grandparents providing housing but not most basic needs). Overall, 142,637 children are estimated to have experienced the death of at least one parent, or a custodial or other co-residing grandparent caregiver.

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