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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, 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,  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 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 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:

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

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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.

May 29, 2017

I think it much more than thar

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.

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

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.

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.

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....

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

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.

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.

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

Ben Dover
Dec 18, 2018

There is no way in the world that the jar in the first picture has $233,610.

Mar 17, 2019

make it longer next time, im using this for school

Debbie Kelly
Oct 31, 2019

I think depending on your area and the child the costs can be more or less
Having a special needs child $13000 a year is way under. It cost $7 to $8 thousand a year just for therapy. 1 hour a day 6 days a week.

Mike Hunt
Nov 01, 2019

Very good article, thanks for posting!

Petros Petrides
Nov 08, 2019

I believe it! Children cost a lot. And the fact that $235,000 per child until 18 is wild to think about though it makes sense. Then when a family has two or more children, this means that some children don't get as much spent on themselves as an only child, but by results, data it was not too much. So be ready to be a parent. If you expect to give your child the proper nourishment.

Mike Oxlong
Nov 12, 2019

This article was a great read!

Nov 22, 2019

You should really read this if you are wondering how much money you will have to spend on your child through raising it for 17 years not including college funds. This really gives great examples and descriptions of raising a child and all of the money that is put into it not even including injuries. I am wondering if there is a way to make it a little less expensive because it costs like 260 grand just to raise one child. It must cost like 600 or 750 grand to raise three children.

Sara Addison-Schorr
Dec 12, 2019

To whom it may concern,
Where might I find an article such as this written closer to present day time? Such as 2019 Vs 2015/2017? Thank you sincerely, Sara

Ben Weaver
Dec 13, 2019

@Sara Addison-Schorr - thank you for your comment. The blog contains the most recent USDA figures on child-rearing expense figures.

isabella russell
Dec 16, 2019

Although this research seems very honest, how do you know if the cost of children may vary in other regions or individual families? A family with more money may spend more money with having two children and spend less if they have one child. Money can definitely weigh in on how much money a family can spend on a child. Different families with different incomes may have less children because they cannot afford to feed or take care of more children.

Emily Vanlandingham
Dec 16, 2019

My response to this is that it is a lot of work to take care of a child. Some of the things you need for your kids are overpriced. Some people just can’t afford to take care of their baby’s that’s why some people put their kid up for adoption. So I think that they should bring the prices down on some of the most important things you need to take care of your children. Sometimes you just need to take everyone into consideration and just think of what kind of situation some people are in and what some people can’t do or can’t afford to do.

Ben Weaver
Jan 15, 2020

@JT Greeno - thank you for your comment. The Cost of Raising a Child calculator has been removed. You may sign up for updates at the following link: Email Updates.

Jan 26, 2020

How much has the cost of raising a child gone up since 2012?

Ben Weaver
Jan 28, 2020

@Elle - thank you for your comment. USDA estimated that in 2012, for a child born that year in a middle-income, married-couple family, the family would spend $241,080 on the child up to age 18. In 2017 (the latest year figures are available for), a married-couple, middle-income family was estimated to spend $233,610 on a child up to age 18, a decrease of 3% since 2012. Part of this decrease was due to methodological changes in the way USDA calculated expenditures on children. The 2012 estimates are based on 2005-05 data inflated to 2012 dollars, whereas the 2017 estimates are based on 2011-15 data inflated to 2017 dollars.

For more information on these child-rearing expenses and the methods used, please see:

Jan 29, 2020

I am wondering if this report has been discontinued as it has been 3 years since a release. Can we expect more in the future or is there an alternative?

Ben Weaver
Feb 12, 2020

@Tyler - thank you for your interest in the Expenditures on Children by Families report. The most recent version of the report is the 2015 report. Currently, USDA is evaluating the methods used to inform this report to ensure they reflect best practices in the field.

Any updates to this report or other reports published by USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion will be published on our website. We encourage you to sign up for email updates to ensure you receive notifications as soon as they are released.

Dean Gambill Jr
Feb 17, 2020

you are not updating your links provided on this page. Each time I attempt to open a link, I get the message "Server Not Found". I didn't access every link shown, just the two I wanted to access to review the information offered.

I would also to point out that my wife and I at age 72 have had full custody of our four of our grandchildren, 3 of them for 7 years and 1 of them for 3 years. I'm not sure how that might impact your analysis, but you should mention that there are an increasing number of grandparents providing custodial care 24/7/365.

Ben Weaver
Feb 18, 2020

@Dean Gambill Jr - thank you for alerting us. We have updated the links within the blog. Please revisit the links you wanted to access.

Sarah Swanson
Apr 09, 2020

I wish a longitudinal study on the costs of children with disabilities or special healthcare needs was done.

JIm Lomanno
Apr 14, 2020

I studied data analysis and worked in the field for a lot of years but am really having a hard time getting my head around that 29% number for housing. I was wondering if you could outline the assumptions made on housing. I'm making the assumption that a family has a cost of housing and every dollar presented here is in addition to that existing cost and each child adds the same amount. I'm just naturally curious about data

Ben Weaver
Apr 16, 2020

@Jim Lomanno - thank you for your comment. To estimate housing expenses on a child, CNPP used what is termed the “cost of an additional bedroom” approach. This approach examines the costs associated with an additional bedroom in a home, specifically the average costs going from a two to three bedroom home or a three to four bedroom home. The costs included furnishings and utilities. This approach assumes that couples would still have a kitchen or living area without the presence of children, so these costs are not included in measuring housing costs on children. However, as data show, what changes in regards to housing as couples have children, is the number of bedrooms in a home. Hence, housing costs on children are measured by the cost of an additional bedroom. For more information on this approach, see page 9 of: (PDF, 2.7 MB).

Jillian Badway
Apr 24, 2020

Great read and information, thank you! Makes me appreciate my father's frugal lifestyle in my childhood years. Now I am an expecting mother and it is all finally making sense. Thank you.

Anne foundations
May 06, 2020

This is very important information. For young people. For others contemplating a family.

Should be good for lawmakers trying to dictate families and healthcare.

Ben Weaver
May 08, 2020

@Nicole Longoria - thank you for your comment. The Cost of Raising a Child calculator has been removed. You may sign up for updates at the following link: Email Updates.

Jul 03, 2020

I agree with the comments below that this isn’t the normal cost. It’s more of a sliding scale. My child support payment for my son if my parents charged me would be 1,400 a month. You read that right. Daycare in my area which is right around Washington, D.C. is in fact 1,000 a month. It’s expensive, he’s in school and not in private so the costs now are lower. But in this area the northeast the numbers are kinda underestimated.

Grace Williams
Jul 07, 2020

When was this posted? The subtitle indicates that it was published in Feb. 2020 but it says it was updated in March 2017.

Dillon Berger
Aug 26, 2020

That the first child costs more and the second and second is more than the third. That the inflation rate is 2.2% each year

Sep 16, 2020

Thank you for this report! As a childless author, it was very helpful to find some harder figures.

Katie Tallman
Sep 22, 2020

How much more money did it cost to raise a child in 2005 than it did in 1995?