It Now Costs $245,000 to Raise a Child, Before College

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 18 2014 6:36 PM

It Now Costs $245,000 to Raise a Child, Before College

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Adorable. Expensive.

Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Kids. They’re expensive. The Department of Agriculture has released its latest report on what families spend raising their children, and it’s full of all sorts of statistics to make you think long and hard about adopting a dog instead. The headline figure: A middle-income married couple can now expect to spend $245,000 on their precious one from birth through age 17 (in other words: pregnancy and college not included). As a point of reference, the median new home sells for about $273,000. Meanwhile, in 1960, the inflation-adjusted price tag for a child was about $198,000. So in half a century, the expense has jumped about 24 percent.

usda_childcare_1

One big culprit here is the ever-growing cost of child care and education, which has expanded from 2 percent of the typical family's budget to 18 percent, even as total spending has shot up. However, those averages mask some pretty big differences between families: 45 percent of middle-income couples spent nothing at all on this category. That means some families really are draining their bank accounts dry on day care and private school, while others manage cheaply with stay-at-home parents and public school.

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There are also big class differences. As shown on the graph below, richer families tend to spend more overall on their children, but they devote less of their income to it. “On average,” the USDA reports, “households in the lowest income group spent 25 percent of their before-tax income on a child; those in the middle-income group, 16 percent; and those in the highest group, 12 percent.” In any event, it’s almost never too late to opt for the beagle.

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Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

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