You Won't Believe How Much It Costs to Raise a Kid in America

The USDA's latest report reveals just how much people who had babies in 2013 will be spending over the next 18 years.

(Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images)

Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Ah, babies. They’re so cute—and also likely to suck all the cash out of your wallet. It’ll cost a middle-income family an astounding $245,340 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18, according to Expenditures on Children by Families, the annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That amount doesn’t even include prenatal care or sky-high college expenses.

To create the report, which was first issued in 1960, the USDA collects expenditure information for housing, food, transportation, health care, and all the other miscellaneous (and totally expensive) things parents need to provide to avoid a call from the local child welfare authorities. Back in the report’s first year, “average expenditures on a child in a middle-income, husband-wife family amounted to $25,229, or $198,560 in 2013 dollars,” write the authors.

Out of all the expenses, keeping a roof over Junior’s head is the biggest chunk of change parents face, which was also true in 1960. In 2013, housing was about 30 percent of the total cost of raising a child. Given that, it makes sense that the two most expensive areas of the nation to raise a child are in the Northeast ($282,480 to raise a child to 18) and in the urban West, places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco ($261,330 to raise a child to 18).

"Variations by geographic region are marked when we look at housing," study author economist Mark Lino said in a statement. "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 to $66,240 in the urban South, and $70,200 in the urban Midwest. It's interesting to note that other studies are showing that families are increasingly moving to these areas of the country with lower housing cost."

What’s shifted significantly since 1960 is how much Americans are paying for education and child care. In 1960, those costs were only 2 percent of a household budget. In 2013 education and child care made up 18 percent of a family’s budget, the second-largest expenditure. 

"When I was pregnant I knew daycare would be expensive," Seattle resident Britta Gidican told CNN Money. "But I didn't expect to pay two mortgages."

Gidican shells out $1,380 every month for day care for her 17-month-old son. That’s only $20 less than her mortgage payment, a reality that makes advocating for better early childhood education programs and subsidized child care even more essential.  

Does all this mean that Americans are being priced out of having kids? The USDA found that having a larger family with three or more children is more cost-efficient than just having one or two kids. With more mouths to feed, parents start to buy food in bulk and tots inherit hand-me-downs (I was a third child; I got everyone else's clothes). That said, most minimum wage workers can't afford a one-bedroom apartment, and child care and education costs just keep going up. But what the heck. Just do it. Because babies, they're so cute. 

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