Why is Sickle Cell a Black Disease

Data & Statistics on Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America); Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

Did you know?

Sickle cell disease occurs more often among people from parts of the world where malaria is or was common. It is believed that people who carry the sickle cell trait are less likely to have severe forms of malaria.

In the United States

The exact number of people living with SCD in the U.S. is unknown. Working with partners, the CDC supports projects to learn about the number of people living with SCD to better understand how the disease impacts their health.

It is estimated that:

  • SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births.
  • SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
  • About 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT).

Comprehensive Care

  • People with SCD have less access to comprehensive team care than people with genetic disorders such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. [Read articleExternal]


  • Sickle cell-related death among Black or African-American children younger than 4 years of age fell by 42% from 1999 through 2002. This drop coincided with the introduction in 2000 of a vaccine that protects against invasive pneumococcal disease.
    [Read summaryExternal]
  • Relative to the rate for the period 1983 through 1986, the SCD mortality rate for the period 1999 through 2002 decreased by:
    • 68% at age 0 through 3 years;
    • 39% at age 4 through 9 years; and
    • 24% at age 10 through 14 years.
      [Read summaryExternal]
  • Mortality Among Children with Sickle Cell Disease Identified by Newborn Screening During 1990-1994 — California, Illinois, and New York:
    • Among the children with Hb SS disease, 1% died as a result of SCD-related causes during the first 3 years of life.
    • In California and Illinois, by the end of 1995, the cumulative mortality rate was 1.5 per 100 Black or African-American children with SCD. The equivalent cumulative mortality rate for all Black or African-American infants born during this period in California and Illinois was 2.0 per 100 Black or African-American newborns.
      [Read article]

Economic Costs

  • During 2005, medical expenditures for children with SCD averaged $11,702 for children with Medicaid coverage and $14,772 for children with employer-sponsored insurance. About 40% of both groups had at least one hospital stay.
    [Read summaryExternal]
  • SCD is a major public health concern. From 1989 through 1993, an average of 75,000 hospitalizations due to SCD occurred in the United States, costing approximately $475 million.
    [Read summaryExternal]

Page last reviewed: August 9, 2017