A new study has estimated that the number of US children impacted by losing a parent or grandparent who was a primary caregiver during the Covid-19 pandemic may be larger than previously thought, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans.
More than half the children who lost a primary caregiver during the pandemic belonged to those two racial groups, which make up about 40% of the US population, according to the study published today by the medical journal Pediatrics.
“These findings really highlight those children who have been left most vulnerable by the pandemic, and where additional resources should be directed,” one of the study’s authors, Dr Alexandra Blenkinsop of Imperial College London, said in a statement.
Associated Press report that the study found that during 15 months of the nearly 19-month pandemic, more than 120,000 US children lost a parent or grandparent who was a primary provider of financial support and care. Another 22,000 children experienced the death of a secondary caregiver — for example, a grandparent who provided housing but not a child’s other basic needs.
In many instances, surviving parents or other relatives remained to provide for these children. Federal statistics are not yet available on how many US children went into foster care last year. Researchers estimate Covid drove a 15% increase in orphaned children.
The new study’s numbers are based on statistical modeling that used fertility rates, death statistics and household composition data to make estimates.
An earlier study by different researchers estimated that roughly 40,000 US children lost a parent to Covid as of February 2021.
The two studies’ findings are not inconsistent, said Ashton Verdery, an author of the earlier study. Verdery and his colleagues focused on a shorter time period than the new study. Verdery’s group also focused only on deaths of parents, while the new paper also captured what happened to caregiving grandparents.
“It is very important to understand grandparental losses,” said Verdery, a researcher at Penn State, told Associated Press in an email. “Many children live with grandparents.”