The Modern Cost of Raising a Child Today

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Any parent can easily attest that raising a child is an expensive venture, and not just in terms of money. The experience is definitely attributed to putting years on a person’s age, adding grey hairs to the scalp, and significant wear and tear to the family house and car. That said, most parents would also say they wouldn’t have done anything different and it was the best part of their life seeing their child born, raised and reach adulthood. However, it’s not cheap.



Throw in the costs of food, clothing, medical checks and treatment, summer camps, team sports, allowances and far more, and the cost of one child raised gets into the dozens of thousands. Add in a second or third child and it grows exponentially. And that figure doesn’t include the added expense if parents choose to send their child through private school education versus public.

Assuming a public school education, raising a child at home and with some daycare costs for two working parents, and a child living at home until age 18, the average cost of raising a child in the U.S. right now comes in just under $234,000. Now obviously there are variations; people can come up with plenty of examples where a child was raised for far more or far less. The figure is a nationwide average which includes regional differences but assumes an aggregate expense over 17 years of life from birth to adulthood. So the $234,000 figure is not that outlandish.

Again, the figure above doesn’t include extra expenses. For example, the cost of supporting a child going to college is nowhere to be found in the calculations. And that can average $5,000 for an associate degree and anywhere from $12,000 to $50,000 or more for a four-year degree.

Interestingly, the figure which is generated by research and data tracking by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is supposed to be representative of costs for a middle-income married parents family. And the figure is far more representative of expenses for the Midwest than for example, New York or California. In fact, the full range of the above figure ran from a low of $174,500 to as much as $372,200. Of those figures the biggest expenses are paying for housing and food. Consumption for eating doesn’t seem like it would be a big cost driver but it’s quite easy for a family to spend of a fifth to a fourth of monthly income just on food (which covers groceries, drinks, eating out and similar). Ironically, what is often pegged as the most spending, the category of clothing, came in as the lowest expense for raising a child.

It’s important to remember, even though the cost might be shocking to parents-to-be, it’s a figure that is spent over time. For example, a home can seem extremely expensive, but paid for over thirty years with a mortgage it becomes manageable month to month.

Budgeting is still a key factor. A family’s living costs definitely rise with the arrival of a new child. And there are plenty of life adjustments needed to accommodate that change. Luxury spending and discretionary purchase go down and get replaced by care for the child or children, and parents adjust accordingly. Families also generally see a rise in income over time on average as people move on to better and better jobs. However, this is a loose assumption, as many realized during the 2009 Recession, losing good income jobs and having to downgrade to lower level income work to pay bills or working two jobs in lieu of one lost.


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