A new model estimates that nearly 40,000 children have lost a parent to Covid-19, and Black children have been disproportionately affected, according to a new research letter published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“The number of children experiencing a parent dying of Covid-19 is staggering, with an estimated 37,300 to 43,000 already affected,” said the research letter, led by Rachel Kidman of the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. “Black children are disproportionately affected, comprising only 14% of children in the US but 20% of those losing a parent to Covid-19.”
Kidman and coauthors estimated the expected number of affected children for each death from Covid-19, also known as the parental bereavement multiplier.
The model suggests that each Covid-19 death leaves 0.078 children aged between 0 and 17 parentally bereaved, representing a 17.5% to 20.2% increase in parental bereavement absent Covid-19.
They point out that although the bereavement multiplier is small, it translates to large numbers of children who have lost parents.
“As of February 2021, 37,300 children aged 0 to 17 years had lost at least 1 parent due to Covid-19, three-quarters of whom were adolescents,” says the research letter.
When the authors factored in excess deaths, they estimated that 43,000 children have lost a parent and looking at a natural herd immunity strategy which resulted in 1.5 million deaths “demonstrates the potential effect of inaction: 116,900 parentally bereaved children.”
The authors note that the estimates rely on modeling, not survey or administrative data and do not include bereavement of nonparental primary caregivers.