More than a quarter of the U.S. population in 2021 (26.4%) had lost both parents.
Among those who had ever lost a parent, 50.7% had lost their mother and 69.2% their father by age 50, according to an analysis of recent estimates from the 2021 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
A new data visualization shows at what age we lose our mothers and fathers and how that pattern varies by race and ethnicity.
It shows that approximately 30.8% of people in the United States have lost their biological mother, 39.8% have lost their biological father, and 44.2% have lost at least one parent.
Parent mortality has become even more salient amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of February 8, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 1.1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.
There was a significant increase in the percentage of people who had both parents deceased (25.7% to 26.4%), their father deceased (39.3% to 39.8%), and their mother deceased (30.3% to 30.8%).
The lives lost to COVID-19 often mean the loss of a spouse, parent, child or caregiver. As of February 3, 2023, the Imperial College London estimates that over 222,500 children have lost one or both parents due to COVID-19 associated deaths in the United States alone.
Disparities in a wide variety of health outcomes, including mortality, have long been associated with race and ethnicity differences. Mortality rates from the COVID-19 pandemic also vary by race and ethnicity, with age-adjusted mortality rates higher for American Indian or Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander individuals relative to Asian or White individuals.
This visualization provides recent estimates of parent mortality and changes between 2019 and 2021. Importantly, these years reflect data prior to (2019) and during (2021) the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for comparisons. It uses data from the public-use files of the SIPP, which asks respondents whether their parents are alive and, for those who have lost a parent, their age when their parent(s) passed away.
Race and Ethnicity:
Comparisons Between 2019 and 2021:
For those individuals who lost a parent, the SIPP asks how old they were when their parent passed away.
This information can be used to estimate the percentage of people who lost their parent in a given age range (e.g., 0-4, 5-9) and the percentage of people who lost their parent up to, and including, a given age. Some key findings from these data in 2021 include:
SIPP is a nationally representative, longitudinal survey administered by the Census Bureau that provides comprehensive information on the dynamics of income, employment, household composition, and government program participation.
SIPP is also a leading source of data on economic well-being, family dynamics, education, wealth, health insurance, child care, and food security. SIPP interviews individuals for several years and provides monthly data about changes in household and family composition and economic circumstances over time. More information is available on the SIPP webpage.
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