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The Cost of Raising a Child

Posted by Mark Lino, Economist at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Food and Nutrition
Jan 13, 2017
Families Projected to Spend an Average of $233,610 Raising a Child Born in 2015 infographic
Families Projected to Spend an Average of $233,610 Raising a Child Born in 2015.

USDA recently issued Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015. This report is also known as “The Cost of Raising a Child.” USDA has been tracking the cost of raising a child since 1960 and this analysis examines expenses by age of child, household income, budgetary component, and region of the country.

Based on the most recent data from the Consumer Expenditures Survey, in 2015, a family will spend approximately $12,980 annually per child in a middle-income ($59,200-$107,400), two-child, married-couple family. Middle-income, married-couple parents of a child born in 2015 may expect to spend $233,610 ($284,570 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child through age 17. This does not include the cost of a college education.

Where does the money go? For a middle-income family, housing accounts for the largest share at 29% of total child-rearing costs.  Food is second at 18%, and child care/education (for those with the expense) is third at 16%. Expenses vary depending on the age of the child.

CNPP Housing infographic
As families often need more room to accommodate children, housing is the largest expense.

We did the analysis by household income level, age of the child, and region of residence. Not surprising, the higher a family’s income the more was spent on a child, particularly for child care/education and miscellaneous expenses.

Expenses also increase as a child ages.  Overall annual expenses averaged about $300 less for children from birth to 2 years old, and averaged $900 more for teenagers between 15-17 years of age. Teenagers have higher food costs as well as higher transportation costs as these are the years they start to drive so insurance is included or a maybe a second car is purchased for them.

Regional variation was also observed. Families in the urban Northeast spent the most on a child, followed by families in the urban West, urban South, and urban Midwest.  Families in rural areas throughout the country spent the least on a child—child-rearing expenses were 27% lower in rural areas than the urban Northeast, primarily due to lower housing and child care/education expenses.

Child-rearing expenses are subject to economies of scale. That is, with each additional child, expenses on each declines. For married-couple families with one child, expenses averaged 27% more per child than expenses in a two-child family.  For families with three or more children, per child expenses averaged 24% less on each child than on a child in a two-child family.  This is sometimes referred to as the “cheaper by the dozen” effect. Each additional child costs less because children can share a bedroom; a family can buy food in larger, more economical quantities; clothing and toys can be handed down; and older children can often babysit younger ones.

CNPP Food infographic
Food costs have decreased over the years thanks to increased efficiency in American agriculture.

This report is one of many ways that USDA works to support American families through our programs and work. It outlines typical spending by families from across the country, and is used in a number of ways to help support and education American families.  Courts and state governments use this data to inform their decisions about child support guidelines and foster care payments.  Financial planners use the information to provide advice to their clients, and families can access our Cost of Raising a Child calculator, which we update with every report on our website, to look at spending patterns for families similar to theirs. This Calculator is one of many tools available on MyMoney.gov, a government research and data clearinghouse related to financial education.

This year we released the report at a time when families are thinking about their plans for the New Year.  We’ve been focusing on nutrition-related New Year’s resolutions – or what we are referring to as Real Solutions - on our MyPlate website, ChooseMyPlate.gov.  This report and the updated calculator can help families as they focus on financial health resolutions.  This report will provide families with a greater awareness of the expenses they are likely to face while raising children.

In addition to the report and the calculator, we also have a dedicated section on ChooseMyPlate.gov that provides tips and tools to aid families and individuals in making healthy choices while staying on a budget. For strategies beyond food, our friends at MyMoney.gov offer a wealth of information to help Americans plan for their financial future.

For more information on the Annual Report on Expenditures on Children by Families, also known as the cost of raising a child, go to: https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/expenditures-children-families-annual-report.

*Projected inflationary costs are estimated to average 2.2 percent per year. This estimate is calculated by averaging the rate of inflation over the past 20 years.

Editor’s Note (March 8, 2017): The comparison of rural vs. urban northeast child care and education value has been updated.

U.S. Department of the Treasury’s MyMoney.gov graphic
Visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s MyMoney.gov for more resources to ensure financial well-being this New Year’s season!
Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Comments

Rixt Luikenaar
Jan 14, 2017

You should link this to organizations against abortion. People who are pro life need to know this and help find solutions for children born from parents that don't want to raise them. So all those that are against abortion can start a fund to help raise the unwanted children in America. Especially under Trump/Pence.

Mary Anne Sherman
Jan 17, 2017

To me, our children are worth far more than they cost.

Thomas Desmond
Apr 24, 2017

Environment and housing is a must, but is it neighborhoods with parks, hospitals, schools, or wealth? Nutrition, is this calculated before child birth and during a science diet of sorts what is the premium and its cost. Home schooling to High School Military Academy's and Big 10 schools is the plan. Scottsdale, AZ to Boulder, CO and ...maybe An Arbor Michigan. With internal champions at each and parent, myself attempting to be consultant on eyes.

James Augustine
May 13, 2017

This report is total nonsense and it is irresponsible of the USDA to publish it. This suggests that it costs roughly $13,000 per year to raise a child. Lots of people will read this and decide they can't afford children. But that number is a fantasy based on ridiculous assumptions. Very few Americans spend that much money on each child. Few Americans have that kind of money and yet somehow kids manage to survive, go to the doctor, and even go to college.

My wife and I live in an area with above average cost of living. We have four kids. I make about $36,000 / year and we're comfortable. We don't have a lot of money for luxuries, but we have everything we need. We splurge on piano lessons, but other than that we spend very little on them. The four of them together cost substantially less than $13,000. With various tax credits factored in, I think the baby is probably a net gain.

Marie
May 29, 2017

I think it much more than thar

Elise
Jul 09, 2017

I live in the Northeast where cost of living is the highest and let me say just because some parents choose to pay $3,000+ a month for one child in daycare doesn't mean we all do! The USDA is OVERESTIMATING the cost of a child. After our first was born I wanted to keep track of "how much she cost" in a year. She wore hand-me-downs, breastfed exclusively, and ate homemade baby food. Our insurance went up $125 a month, our house payment did not change nor did our utilities. Our food budget increased $25, and we spent about $20 a month average on misc. $170 a month, no government assistance and no family help! When our second was born the insurance stayed the same and we again added about $50 to our budget for food and misc. Each of our subsequent kids cost about $50 more a month. Nothing like this government report implies.
My husband is the oldest of 8, yes 8! Piano lessons, track and field and horseback riding lessons for all the kids! Ready for this: on a one salary household in the Northeast making $40K a year! Insurance through his work, gardening and a family of 8 was born and paid for! They even adopted later on! And they still have kids at home in 2017 so these numbers are not from the 80s!
You can make any excuse you want as to why people shouldn't have kids and why abortion is the only option to unwanted children over powering our welfare system. However, maybe I'm just a naive college educated stay at home mother of a large and growing family living on one income of $42K a year, but I firmly believe if children are not thought of as blessings than they will always be considered a burden regardless of the cost.
P.S. If you are reading this and want kids don't let this report scare you because it is far from accurate!

peggy lambert
Sep 15, 2017

Do not have a kid basically.

Mike Erekson
Sep 26, 2017

This report makes a bunch of nonsensical assumptions and calculations. You do not have to buy a bigger house, car, or get childcare just because you have one child. I have 8 kids, my wife stays home, I save over 25% of my income going to retirement, contribute to college savings finds, paid off my mortgage last year, have insurance through work, and I make less than $100k before taxes. We look for deals, get used vehicles (even with repairs I still haven't spent as much as a new vehicle costs over 17 years). We did eventually get a bigger home and have made small increased in food and clothing expenses with each child, but our actual childcare expenses are way, way less than these estimates.

Djenkins
Dec 05, 2017

This report is total nonsense so what I'm reading is every family raises their children the same exact way and there is no difference in income or your area or circumstances.... how many people can actually afford daycare heck most Americans can't even afford health insurance. Most families I know rely on a family member or best friend to babysit their kids after school if their work hours extend that far. And as far as College goes we all know college does not work out well for everyone I know plenty of very rich family is and they will never pay for their kids to go to college their kids have paid for their own trade school like nursing or mechanic. And where are these people getting their shopping done for food to be so expensive this whole report is useless and God forbid if used in the child support departments everyone is not the same and if we were this entire world will be in such a better place

Haley
Mar 08, 2018

Thank you for this information it really helped me on my report on how hard being a mother/caretaker of a child can be.

D
Apr 08, 2018

You will need a home with a child or without one, so I'm still wondering how in the World would housing be considered 29%. I'm starting to believe these figures are for bigger purposes, calculations for other organizations to use like child support. Everyone in the world knows at least 97% of people cant afford 13,000 a month on anything... This is the biggest joke I have ever seen. Why would they even publish this non-sense.

Kate
Apr 17, 2018

So....I read the other comments and felt compelled to add my own.
I don't know the details about the methods used (the general info is in the full report, link is in the article), but I don't have time/interest to chase the details...I just want to encourage people to keep in mind that this is an average. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford a home then most likely your cost of having a child will not increase, but if someone has to go from a 1 bedroom to a 2 bedroom (as we had to do) then the cost goes up. If someone is not able to breast feed (yes, some women are not ABLE to, whether it's because their milk never comes in or they adopt or whatever) then they have to go to formula which is VERY expensive. The cost of childcare is ridiculous in some areas, making it so it's almost not worth it to have a 2-income family...some people have family to help...some people have special needs children with Autism, anxiety, learning disabilities, etc and there are costs (sometimes exorbitant) associated with those, from education to medical...I don't know how much we spent on our first and then second child, but we have a lower middle income and I left my full time job because the cost of childcare in our area was prohibitive. We don't spend on many extras (our extras are a bottle of $10 wine here and there or treating the kids to a movie twice/year) and there have been too many times we have received disconnection notices because we don't have the extra to pay our utility bills. so...just because YOU are making it work, please don't think your situation is everyone's situation. Again, these numbers are an AVERAGE, meaning some spend a lot less, some a lot more and some only spend that much....
Peace

Rita
May 29, 2018

EVERYTHING KATE SAID!!! The operative word is "average".

Danielle Phillips
Oct 09, 2018

I really liked this article and hopefully it will help me in the future. Thank you to the writers of the article

Jill
Oct 12, 2018

I work and send my child to daycare. The cheapest place I could find is $22k/year and that is for a licensed home daycare in someone’s basement. A real school/daycare facility is closer to $29k/year. This is the reality in our area and not a choice if you need to keep working. So yes, I spend way over $13k on my child each year.

Miss. Anonymous
Oct 16, 2018

I'm a kid and I don't need all this, and my parents say that I don't cost this much and I know that that's the truth, because they take me to the bank for "learning reasons" (its absolutely BORING) and they explain everything and I get to see the cost of what they have spent every year, and its only up to 5 to 10,000 dollars. I am aware of how much college costs though.

Harrison
Oct 16, 2018

I agree with this article. It was very informative I understood most of it, but what I didn't know was easy to learn.

bert
Oct 18, 2018

I think this is a very informational article some of this stuff I did not know if i were to rate this 1 being the worst 10 being the best I would rate this a 9