THURSDAY, Oct. 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) — It is an excruciating statistic: One in every four COVID-19 deaths in the United States leaves a child without a parent or other caregiver, researchers report.
The analysis of data shows that from April 2020 to July 2021, more than 120,000 children under the age of 18 lost a primary caregiver (a parent or grandparent who provided housing, basic needs and care), and about 22,000 lost a secondary caregiver (grandparents who provided housing, but not most basic needs).
“Children facing orphanhood as a result of COVID is a hidden, global pandemic that has sadly not spared the United States,” study author Susan Hillis, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher, said in a U.S. National Institutes of Health news release.
Overall, about 1 in 500 children in the United States have become orphans or lost a grandparent caregiver to COVID-19, according to the study published Oct. 7 in the journal Pediatrics.
Children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65% of youngsters who lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19, compared with 35% of white children, even though whites account for 61% of the U.S. population, and people of racial and ethnic minorities represent 39% of the population.
Orphanhood or the death of a primary caregiver due to COVID-19 was experienced by: 1 of every 168 American Indian/Alaska Native children, 1 of every 310 Black children, 1 of every 412 Hispanic children, 1 of every 612 Asian children, and 1 of every 753 white children.
Compared to white children, American Indian/Alaska Native children were 4.5 times more likely to lose a parent or grandparent caregiver, Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children were 1.8 times more likely.
States with large populations — California, Texas and New York — had the highest overall numbers of children who lost primary caregivers to COVID-19.
The researchers also found significant racial/ethnic differences between states.
In New Mexico, Texas, and California, 49% to 67% of children who lost a primary caregiver were Hispanic. In Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, 45% to 57% of children who lost a primary caregiver were Black. American Indian/Alaska Native children who lost a primary caregiver were more common in South Dakota (55%), New Mexico (39%), Montana (38%), Oklahoma (23%), and Arizona (18%).