Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Justin Fox

Covid-19 Lockdowns May Have Saved Kids’ Lives

Deaths appear to be down among children in 2020 in the U.S. and other affluent countries. Everybody staying home has its benefits as well as costs.

Kids can’t fall off the merry-go-round if it's closed.

Kids can’t fall off the merry-go-round if it's closed.

Photographer: Nick Oxford/Bloomberg

Covid-19 the disease has mostly spared children’s lives, but it is widely expected that the measures taken to slow its spread and the economic dislocation that has followed in its wake will have all sorts of negative consequences for them. A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health projected in May that pandemic-induced disruptions to health care and food provision in developing countries will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children — possibly causing the first annual increase in the global child mortality rate in at least 60 years. Another group of researchers from Johns Hopkins, the International Food Policy Research Institute and elsewhere forecast in July that Covid-related malnutrition would claim the lives of 128,605 children under 5 around the world — mostly in Africa — this year. Even in rich countries where malnutrition is unlikely to be a major issue, the pandemic’s mental health consequences for young people could be dire.

I do not wish to cast doubt on any of these forecasts or warnings, especially those focused on developing nations. But it does seem worth pointing out that, since the arrival of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that fewer children have died in the U.S. than would have been expected based on recent years’ experience.