The mortality rate in children with ESRD is substantially lower than the rate experienced by adults. However, the risk of death while awaiting kidney transplantation and the impact of transplantation on long-term survival has not been well characterized in the pediatric population. We performed a longitudinal study of 5961 patients under age 19 who were placed on the kidney transplant waiting list in the United States. Of these, 5270 received their first kidney transplant between 1990 and 2003. Survival was assessed via a time-varying nonproportional hazards model adjusted for potential confounders. Transplanted children had a lower mortality rate (13.1 deaths/1000 patient-years) compared to patients on the waiting list (17.6 deaths/1000 patient-years). Within the first 6 months of transplant, there was no significant excess in mortality compared to patients remaining on the waiting list (adjusted Relative Risk (aRR) = 1.01; p = 0.93). After 6 months, the risk of death was significantly lower: at 6-12 months (aRR = 0.37; p < 0.001) and at 30 months (aRR 0.26; p < 0.001). Compared to children who remain on the kidney transplant waiting list, those who receive a transplant have a long-term survival advantage. With the potential for unmeasured bias in this observational data, the results of the analysis should be interpreted conservatively.