What price can you put on raising a child? How about $234,900? That’s what a middle-income family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend for food, shelter, Bagukan Battle Brawler cards, and other necessities over the next 17 years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
This represents a 3.5 percent increase from 2010, according to the USDA’s annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families (that year, $250,000 was the minimum annual salary for a major league baseball player). Transportation, child care, education, and food represented the largest percentage increases related to raising a child from 2010. There were smaller increases in housing, clothing, health care, and miscellaneous expenses on a child during this same period, the report found.
This is the 51th year USDA has issued its annual report on the cost of raising a child. In 1960, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($191,720 in 2011 dollars) to raise a child through age seventeen.
The USDA report is based on data from the Federal government’s Consumer Expenditure Survey, which tracks household spending. It is used as a resource to courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments. For 2011, the annual cost of raising a child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12.290 to $14,320, depending on the child’s age.
Family income affects child rearing costs. A family earning less than $59,410 annually can expect to spend a total of $169,080 (in 2011 dollars) on a child from birth through high school. Similarly, middle-income parents with an income between $59,410 and $102,870 can expect to spend $234,900; and a family earning more than $102,870 can expect to spend $389,670.
Housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging 30 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education (for those incurring these expenses) and food were the next two largest expenses, accounting for 18 and 16 percent of the total cost over 17 years.
Families looking to reign in some of those costs might consider moving to the urban South or rural areas, which have the lowest child-rearing expenses, the report found. Expenses are highest for families living in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West and urban Midwest.
They might even consider having more children. Expenses per child decrease as a family adds to the franchise. Families with three or more children spend 22 percent less per child than families with two children. As families have more children, the children can share bedrooms, clothing and toys can be handed down to younger children, food can be purchased in larger and more economical quantities, and private schools or child care centers may offer sibling discounts.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.