A Hidden Tragedy of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Orphaned Black Children

A new study led by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 140,000 children have lost their principal caregivers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of every four deaths from the virus has resulted in a child losing their principal caregiver.

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. 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.

As in many adverse health outcomes, there is a significant racial disparity. Some 65 percent of the children who have been orphaned come from nonwhite ethnic or racial groups, yet these groups make up just 39 percent of the U.S. population.

One of every 310 Black children experienced orphanhood or death of caregivers compared to one of 753 White children. Thus, Black children were 2.4 times as likely as White children to be orphaned from the pandemic.

“Children facing orphanhood as a result of COVID is a hidden, global pandemic that has sadly not spared the United States,” said Susan Hillis, CDC researcher and lead author of the study. “All of us – especially our children – will feel the serious immediate and long-term impact of this problem for generations to come. Addressing the loss that these children have experienced – and continue to experience – must be one of our top priorities, and it must be woven into all aspects of our emergency response, both now and in the post-pandemic future.”

The full study,  COVID-19-Associated Orphanhood and Caregiver Death in the United States,” was published on the website of the journal Pediatrics. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Comments (2)

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  1. Bill MacKenzie says:

    Is it possible some of the disparity in these numbers is due to the reported resistance to the Covid-19 vaccine among the Black population?

    • Galen Paul says:


      Assuming your comment was made in good faith, it seems more likely that the root causes of this unfolding tragedy are systemic racist practices throughout the American health care system. Suggesting that some of the disparity may be attributable to “reported” vaccine resistance is a lazy if not harmful analysis.

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