A child born in 2009 will cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars, or about $222,360, to raise to maturity, up a little less than 1% from 2008, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday in its annual report on the average cost of raising a child. (The department runs the survey to help courts and state governments set child-support guidelines.) Expenses for child care, education and health care rose the most compared with 2008, while the cost of transportation for a child actually fell, the department said. Annual child-rearing expenses for the average middle-income, two-parent family range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child, the department says.
Child care accounts for 17% of the total spending, and education for 16% of the total. The cost of housing makes up nearly one-third of the total; this is gauged by the average cost of an additional bedroom. But the tally excludes any spending on kids over age 17, so it doesn’t include one of the biggest and fastest-growing single financial outlays many parents make: the cost of sending your child through college. Higher-education costs aren’t included, the department says.
Families in the Northeast have the highest costs, followed by cities in the West, then cities in the Midwest. Families in rural areas and in Southern cities have the lowest child-rearing costs.
For families with many kids, however, there is some good news: The more children you have, the less it costs to raise each one. These economics of scale deliver 22% savings per child for families with three or more children. That is because kids can share a bedroom, hand down clothing and toys to each other, and consume food purchased in bulk quantities, reducing costs. Also, private schools and child-care centers may offer sibling discounts. The data is compiled based on spending by 11,800 two-parent families and 3,350 single parents with at least one child under 18 living at home.
Based on previous reports by the department, the overall cost of raising a child rose 15% in inflation-adjusted dollars between 1960 and 2008. The increase has been driven largely by sharp increases in health-care, child-care and education costs, the department says. Interestingly, clothing and food costs have fallen, perhaps because of more efficient mass production of food and reduced costs of manufacturing clothing.