Thank your parents, kids. You've already cost them $165,000.

Bob Crotty was chasing one of his little boys down Boston's posh Newbury Street. This project manager at a construction firm and his wife were taking their sons to a modeling agency, and it wasn't just because they were cute kids. A contract means money for college. Extra cash comes in handy, given the costs of raising kids these days.

According to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture, it will take $165,630 dollars -or $233,530 factoring in inflation - for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child born last year to 17 years of age. College tuition is not included.

Low-income families may spend $121,230, while upper-income families may spend as much as $244,770.

Child care is one of the major costs. The Childcare Defense Fund reported last year that tuition for 4-year-olds in child-care centers was between $4,000 and $6,000 a year in most cities.

Costs are even more for toddlers - care for a 1-year-old is $5,750 a year in two-thirds of the cities surveyed. In some cities, child care costs more than college tuition.

In Seattle, for example, child care costs $6,604 annually, while the average annual cost of public college tuition is $3,151. In Durham, N.C., a year of child care is $5,876 compared to $1,958 for a local college.

Many parents, like John McLoughlin, are not surprised. The podiatrist from Boston, who was strapping his little girl into a jogging stroller, says he's heard similar figures before and takes them with a grain of salt. "It's like anything; it comes in small increments," he says.

For now, diapers cut into his budget. For $35, he gets a box of 160, which last three to four weeks.

He and his wife have avoided child care so far by splitting time at home. "We were joking we both work 40-hour weeks; we are just doing it in a few days," he says.

Lindy Joseph was watching his 2-month-old son, Joel, snooze in his stroller at a Boston park. His biggest expense right now? Baby formula, which can cost close to $30 a week.

"I don't know what to say. It's really expensive to raise a kid these days," Mr. Joseph says. "You know it's costly, so [the figures are] not really shocking."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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