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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
Feb 18, 2020
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: www.fns.usda.gov/resource/expenditures-children-families-reports-all-years.

*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

Martin young
Oct 05, 2020

Thank you for the information

Chase
Oct 15, 2020

Although I appreciate the report, being a parent of two young children I'm very suspicious of these numbers reported here. Our family of four lives with one income of $40K annually with which we manage to get everyone happy while having savings, two cars paid in cash, zero debt, and looking forward to stop working for money in 10 years.
Having said that, there is always a way to spend all your money (and even borrowed money) on anything including children. Want to have your children well educated? read to them, Want to have memorable vacations? visit national parks. In short, children need to be loved and as long as they're basic necessities are covered, they'll be fine.

Kyla
Dec 04, 2020

Based on other responses this article overestimates the cost of a child. Yes children are expensive it is a human being and we are actual pretty fragile. Humans need a lot of care let alone one that can't do anything for themselves. However this article made them seem a little TOO pricey. Children are worth the cost though think about it, you brought another human into the world for a small chunk of your wallet. Okay maybe a pretty big bit out of your wallet.

Graham Newman
Dec 04, 2020

I would think that raising a child would be costly, because a child needs a lot of things. I often wonder how much money my parents are spending on us. And if their money is going up or down. I can also see the cheaper by the dozen effect, because I have two brothers. And mom or dad will buy food at Costco, Where the food is big sized. But I still am wondering about the costs.

Fernando Elian
Dec 07, 2020

well.. I don't know what to say but, man , this is pretty expensive, but I guess I learned something new about raising children now. I don't really have anything to say about this, but its informative, I started to appreciate my parent's struggles even more now and at least I know I can plan ahead if I ever have any children down the road...

Julia Roberts
Jan 24, 2021

Wow, I'm about to get married (in April of 2021, yes, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but my partner and I thought it would be fine) and this article really, really surprised me. I was thinking of having children, 2 kids, to be exact, and thought that the total cost would be much lower than this, given that I didn't count the extra food and diapers that we would have to purchase. I am 29 years old, and plan to give birth to my 1st child at around age 31 and plan to give birth to my 2nd child around age 33. I guess we really need to save our money now!

And I couldn't say this enough:
THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH! This article really helped me!

Dante S.
Mar 08, 2021

Agree with a comment from James. Additionally, this report is wildly inflated and gives attorneys and judges fodder to put non-custodial parents in the poor house or worse. Childcare is expensive which is ridiculous by itself. How can you even begin to justify spending $800+ a month on pre-K?

This kinda report gives justification for others to be greedy.

Marsha Allen
Mar 15, 2021

Where can I find the calculator. I have been using this for years and now can't find it. Please help!

Zachary J Shelton
Mar 31, 2021

I find this vary helpful in understanding were all the money goes. One thing i think you should add would be to list ways of how to spend and save,this would help out in the long run. The amount of data shown is amazing. How the writer listed the rates of witch homes spend,and how it increases with the age and number of children.I also find it funny that i my self come from an family with 8 children and 1 dog. The rates of witch my parents spend must overshadow most of the data shown here.

Vanessa Vega
Apr 01, 2021

The cost of raising a child depends on the age, region, and overall income the parents make. Housing, food, education, and other extras are what add up to the total amount of money required to raise a child. And it isn't cheap. Families that make a higher income and live in city-like areas tend to spend more on a child than families that make a lower income and live in the countryside. The total money spent on children grows with the children as well. The older they get, it will be at least another $500 spent each year to meet the child's needs. So even though the thought of having a child to some people seems like a miracle, it is expensive!

Tom Stephenson
Jul 28, 2021

Is there a timeframe when we might see an update from the 2015 report?

Ben Weaver
Jul 28, 2021

@Tom Stephenson - thank you for your comment. USDA is evaluating the data and methodology used to calculate the cost of raising a child in light of the latest best practices in the field of scientific research in order to determine next steps. At this time, the report released in 2017 is the latest available.

Amy Scovil
Aug 17, 2021

Thank you for the good to know facts.

myles Loffgren
Sep 02, 2021

there is no way a house can cost $2,400 in a rural area.

Shawn joy
Sep 08, 2021

thanks for giving this information

Nick Arancibia
Sep 08, 2021

Raised just two kids is very expensive and is only going to get more expensive, this is probably a big contributing factor to people having less kids now days

Adriana
Sep 12, 2021

Hello is there any current data available to update the cost of raising a child information? It looks like this data was gathered in 2015. Thank-you in advance.

Ben Weaver
Sep 13, 2021

@Adriana - thank you for your comment. USDA is evaluating the data and methodology used to calculate the cost of raising a child in light of the latest best practices in the field of scientific research in order to determine next steps. At this time, the report released in 2017 is the latest available.

akyshaun robinson
Sep 23, 2021

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.

Allison Lasley
Sep 23, 2021

Has this data been updated anywhere to reflect the same information (the cost of raising a child) during/after the pandemic and those economic policy changes? If so, can you please send me a link to the article?

Ben Weaver
Sep 23, 2021

@Allison Lasley - thank you for your comment. USDA is evaluating the data and methodology used to calculate the cost of raising a child in light of the latest best practices in the field of scientific research in order to determine next steps. At this time, the report released in 2017 is the latest available.

Clayton
Oct 02, 2021

This is obviously a report of how much it would cost for the government to raise a child. I know that a child can be raised for far less than that amount per year. In fact I would say the children raised for less, would most always achieve more in life, and be better people overall. The lack of money can be a good thing for a family as long as basic needs are met. A basic need is not a car for a 15 to 17 year old.

Jordan Kandawasvika
Oct 28, 2021

The cost of raising a child is high because you have to pay for bills in regards of every child. Having a child alone could be 29,000 a year or more depending on the needs or circumstances.

Gary
Oct 29, 2021

No way or we couldnt have afforded 3 boys. Lifestyle far from extravagant but comfortable good food good clothes good health and dental care. Middle class new home to live in and drove new cars. Looking back would guess our expenditures to be around 10-12000 per year for all 3.

J. Vanderhoeven
Nov 30, 2021

Is USDA still doing these reports? The most recent data was published 2017 and reports on data from 2015. With inflation pressures over past year, it seems this data is in need of an update!

Ben Weaver
Nov 30, 2021

@J. Vanderhoeven - thank you for your comment. USDA is evaluating the data and methodology used to calculate the cost of raising a child in light of the latest best practices in the field of scientific research in order to determine next steps. At this time, the report released in 2017 is the latest available.

Catherine
Dec 17, 2021

I have 2 kids and my spouse and I make about $60K total at the moment. We've had lean times and flush times, and have absolutely adjusted our spending on our children to our situation at the time. When I made $125K a year, we spent at least $12K on daycare for one. Now I make like $10K because I stay home and work part-time, and those daycare costs aren't a factor anymore. We also downsized our house instead of upsized when we had another kid. Because I'm home, I cook from scratch a lot and seek out free hand-me-down stuff like expensive jackets, furniture, and sports equipment. I definitely don't spend nearly $800 PER CHILD on clothes every year!

You could say we spend $13K per kid per year, but only in the sense that they are fully functioning human members of our family and each takes up 1/4 of the budget of our household. A quarter of the mortgage payment, a quarter of the electric bill, etc. Take the food costs for example: We spend about $400 per month on food, so $4800 per year. But we spent $400 or so before the kids came along. They don't really eat all that much. They generally eat what we eat. We buy in bulk and cook from scratch. We are super frugal and try not to waste or buy a lot of convenience food. My main takeaway point is that every family is different, but wanted to just point out that these figures are probably pretty high for the average middle-to-low income family.

steve perkins
Apr 05, 2022

i really like this article!