In this paper, I take advantage of newly available data in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to document outcomes among individuals with deceased parents. I focus first on minors and find that about 2 million children in the United States have a biological mother or father who is deceased. This is the first direct estimate of the size of the orphan population in the United States. Relative to children with both parents living, these maternal and paternal orphans have less favorable educational and health outcomes but similar levels of economic well-being. I find the Social Security program provides extensive (but not universal) support to the child survivor population, with participation in the program potentially affected by the earnings of deceased parents prior to death and by awareness of benefit eligibility by adult members in the child’s household. Similar to outcomes for child survivors, I find adult respondents who have deceased parents at the time of the SIPP have less favorable educational and health outcomes. In contrast to child survivors, adults with deceased parents – across a wide range of age groups – are more likely to have low levels of economic well-being. I also find, by examining a past legislative change in Social Security student benefits that would have affected several cohorts in the SIPP, that financial resources available to young adult survivors have effects on educational attainment and effects on income much later in life.


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