Child Rearing Costs Could Hit a Quarter Million

A child born in 2013 can cost his parents about $245,340 for food, housing, child care, education and other child-rearing expenses by the time he hits 18.

And that amount is more like $304,480 when adjusted for projected inflation, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual analysis of average family expenditures on children. The figures are meant to reflect the expenses and lifestyle of a middle-income family.

According to the survey results, which are published annually as the “Cost of Raising a Child” report, the cost represents an overall 1.8% increase from 2012, though percentages spent on each expenditure category remain the same.

As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and rural ($193,590) regions of the country. Families in the urban Northeast incurred the highest costs to raise a child ($282,480).

For the year 2013, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,800 to $14,970, depending on the age of the child. The report also notes that family income affects child-rearing costs. A family earning less than $61,530 per year can expect to spend a total of $176,550 (in 2013 dollars) on a child from birth up to age 18. Parents with an income between $61,530 and $106,540 can expect to spend $245,340; a family earning more than $106,540 can expect to spend $407,820 on raising a child.

For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging 30% of the total cost. Child care and education was the second-largest expense, at 18%, followed by food, which accounted for 16% of the total cost.

The average cost of housing for a child up to age 18 is $87,840 for a middle-income family in the urban West, compared with $66,240 in the urban South and $70,200 in the urban Midwest.

In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($198,560 in 2013 dollars) to raise a child until the age of 18. Housing was the largest child-rearing expense both then and now. Health-care expenses for a child have doubled as a percentage of total child-rearing costs during that time. In addition, some common current-day costs, such as child care, were negligible in 1960.

Expenses per child decrease as a family has more children. Families with three or more children spend 22% less per child than families with two children.