The Cost of a Kid – $205,960 to $475,680 – How Much Will Your’s Cost?

Here’s a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Families’ expenditures on their children in 2009 that provides something worth thinking about for almost anyone.  If you have kids and wonder where your money is going, this offers something to compare yourself to.  If you want some help justifying a decision not to have kids, well this might just do it.  If you are thinking about having kids, it might be good to read with caution.  And if you pay or receive child support and wonder just where that money might actually be going, or where those support numbers come from, this will explain a little of that.

According to the USDA, the total cost of raising a child born in 2009 to age 17 is between $205,960 and $475,680, adjusted for inflation.  Those figures are based on averages that were broken down for three income brackets – lowest, middle and high – with the average expected cost for each being (respectively) $205,960, $286,050 and $475,680.

If you want to estimate the costs based on your own situation, there is also a handy calculator that’s been devised to help you gauge what you will likely spend for your children, based on such individualized factors as how many children you have, how old they are, whether you are raising them with a partner, what your income level is and in what area of the country you live.

And regardless of what the actual costs end up being, there are also some interesting trends and conclusions that the study found:

The most expensive aspect of raising a child over the course of their life (to age 17, and averaged across income levels) is providing for their housing, which averages 31% of the total.  Second to that is providing child care and educating them at 17%, then feeding them, at 16%.  These three categories are followed by costs of transportation at 13%, various miscellaneous expenses at 9%, healthcare expenses at 8% and clothing coming in last at 6%.  One difference in the low income households, versus both the middle and highest, was that the cost of food rose to the second highest expense category, above childcare/education.  The explanation attributed to this was that lower income households found free or much lower cost childcare from family members or friends.

In a two parent household, if you have one child, the average percentage of all household expenses that is directed towards raising that child is 27%, while if there are two children, the average grows less than proportionately to 41%, and with three children the average rises even less proportionately, and just a few points higher to 48%.  (The figures for single parent households is generally slightly less overall, since there tends to be slightly less money to spend on children as a whole, but the trends are otherwise similar, with parents spending only slightly more with each addition to their family.)

The cost of raising children tends to increase as they get older, growing from an average of $11,700 per year at the youngest age (0 to 2) to $13,530 per year at the oldest ages (15 to 17).  These are the averages for a middle income family, but the same trends were repeated in all income groups.  Generally, the cost of food is what rose the most as children aged (presumably because of their growing appetites), and transportation costs also rose slightly, which was believed to be related to the costs of children starting to drive.  The cost of education/childcare, however, decreased after age 6 (mostly as attributed to the childcare cost).

As expected, the cost of raising kids also varied based on geography.  This was found to be primarily related to the directly correlating higher cost of both housing and of childcare and education in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West, urban Midwest, urban South and then rural areas.  Transportation costs, however, related to raising children was highest in the urban West and rural areas.

The study did not include costs of pre-natal healthcare, higher education or any costs after age 17, or governmental expenditures for children.

One final interesting comparison was that of the change in child rearing expenditures from 1960, when the USDA first collected these numbers, to its latest figures in 2009.  The average expense then, in 1960 (using the average figures for middle income families with two parents) amounted to $25,229, or $182,857 in 2009 dollars compared to the 2009 figure of $222,360 – almost $40,000 more or 22% higher, even after adjusting for inflation.  The costs that have increased the most have been childcare/education from 2% to 17% (probably related to the fact that there are less stay-at-home parents today), and healthcare doubled from 4% to 8%.  Housing has always been the largest category at about 31%, with no actual relative change, while the categories that have decreased in relative size have been food (24% to 16%), transportation (16% to 13%), clothing which nearly shrank in half (11% to 6%) and miscellaneous items (12% to 9%).  These expenses are believed to have decreased in relation to the whole due in part to technology, production and agricultural efficiency and globalization.

This study is completed annually for the purpose of assisting governmental agencies, legislatures and other interested entities or individuals to develop updated State child support guidelines, foster care payments and family education programs.  Whether you find it accurate or not, disagree with it or not, or just wish that other parent of your child would help out more financially, or really spent that much of the support money on your kid(s), now you have some figures to pick apart during those sleepless, financially stressful nights, or while waiting in court, or simply waiting for your kids while they grow up  happily and healthily ignorant of how much they are likely costing you.

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