The Cost Of Raising A Kid

by Dish Staff

It’s absurdly expensive:

It costs approximately $249,930 on average for a two-parent, middle-income family to raise an American child from birth until age 18, according to a Department of Agriculture report released on Monday. The data were adjusted for inflation for 2013, and they ultimately show that child-rearing prices have skyrocketed more than many people imagined over the course of the last half-century. The report considers the costs of housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing and diapers, healthcare expenses, childcare and education, as well as “miscellaneous costs” such as entertainment and personal care products. As Think Progress notes, the report conspicuously fails to include birth-related costs or the costs of lost time, earnings and opportunity that many people give up (overtly or not) by deciding to have kids. Additionally, the report fails to consider the cost of college, which costs parents approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

Josh Zumbrun throws some cold water:

[A] closer look at the methodology casts some of the numbers in a new light.

The report calculates the cost of housing by looking at the expense of buying a home with an additional bedroom. If you’d otherwise planned to live in a one-bedroom condo your entire life, this is an extra cost. But if you planned on buying a 3 or 4 bedroom house anyway, this is not really an additional expense of parenthood. That extra bedroom assumption alone accounts for $4,000 a year in expenses, or about $73,000 of the cost of raising a child until age 18.

The cost of some transportation and other miscellaneous items are calculated on a per-capita basis, in the estimate. So if there’s two parents and a child, spending $3,000 on some item, then $1,000 of that is assumed to go to the child. That assumption may or may not be applicable for your family.

Regardless, McArdle remarks that the “last 50 years have seen a massive shift away from the basic expenses of keeping your kid alive and toward competitive expenses”:

If your kids go to school with other kids who aren’t wearing thrift-school clothing, they’ll be made fun of. They’ll learn to long for all the new toys the other kids have. They’ll want to join expensive activities, and you’ll want to get them tutoring and enrichment programs to increase their shot at getting into a good school. You certainly won’t want to cram them into a three-bedroom house. In other words, raising kids cheaply is only possible if you think there’s something even more important than socializing and getting a good education – or if you’re so poor that you simply lack the cash to help your kids compete in our society’s various status competitions.

Kyle Chayka focuses on the inequality angle:

Structural inequality is growing in the U.S., a fact acknowledged across the political spectrum. But few statistics illustrate that fact as starkly as a graph of how much the highest-income families can spend on their children versus the lowest-income families in a single year. A household earning above $106,540 was able to spend more than double the amount spent by those earning less than $61,530, particularly for young children. When the kids become teenagers, the spending of high-income families also grows faster than the other groups, reaching $25,000, as compared to $15,000 in the middle range and around $10,000 at the bottom.

Yet even that increased spending is less of a burden on wealthier families, who spend the lowest percentage of their income on their children (as measured before taxes). The lowest-income group spent 25 percent of their income on a child, while the middle-income group spent 16 percent and the top bracket just 12.