Yikes! In the US, parenting now costs $233K per child

The average cost of raising a child in the US – up to age 17 – is up 3 percent from 2014, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/Staff/File
Mike Caggiano of Tewksbury, Masss., reads with his 3-year-old son, Owen, in the children's section at the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Mass.

It now costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child in the United States.

A new report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that the estimated average costs of raising a child born in 2015 through age 17 has risen to $233,610, a 3-percent increase from 2014

This annual report, prepared by the USDA since 1960, has long been a source for government institutions to help determine levels of child support and foster care guidelines.  

It tracks seven categories, ranging from transportation to clothing, but doesn’t include the annual cost of college or any government aid received. 

“This report, which we have produced for 55 years, gives families a greater awareness of the expenses they are likely to face, and serves as a valuable tool for financial planning and educational programs, as well as courts and state governments,” Kevin Concannon, under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in a statement. 

Concluding that the wealthier the family, the more expensive it is to raise children, the report also notes some disparity among families of different income groups.

Wealthier families on average spent more than twice as much as poorer families on total child-rearing costs in 2015, with a higher proportion in child-care and education. But for lower-income families, nutrition is ranked as the second-largest cost. 

The study said an increase in the number of women in the workforce likely prompted a higher need for child care, leading to the growth of education costs. At the same time, gasoline costs have gone down.

“Those trips you made to soccer games, driving children around, became cheaper,” Mark Lino, the USDA economist who wrote the report, told Bloomberg. “Costs for child-care and education have really gone up among upper-income groups.”

However, across all income groups, housing remains the single largest cost in total child-rearing expenses, accounting for 29 percent of total expenses.  

“But while housing costs have increased over time, changes in American agriculture have resulted in lower food costs, and family food budgets now represent a lower percentage of household income,” Angie Tagtow, executive director for the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the USDA, said in the statement. 

Despite the popularity of designer clothing for kids, the study finds that spending on clothing and miscellaneous items for children has decreased within the last 55 years. It speculates that such results are because of technological changes and globalization that have made clothing less expensive.

While the location of the household matters – families living in urban Midwest and rural areas spent the least in raising children and those in the urban Northeast the most – Dr. Lino said the number of children a household has also significantly impact the costs.   

“There are significant economies of scale, with regards to children, sometimes referred to as the 'cheaper by the dozen effect,'” Lino said in the statement. “As families increase in size, children may share a bedroom, clothing and toys can be reused, and food can be purchased in larger, more economical packages.”

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