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The Cost of Raising a Child Is on the Rise

Scott Monge

These days a dollar doesn’t go very far. Even a pack of chewing gum rings up around $1.25. The cost of groceries has surged in recent years and the ever-changing price of fuel leaves some people making life choices at the pump. Some struggle to keep up with inflation, but many are still choosing to raise a family, a commitment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just how much does is take to raise a child in today’s world?

A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture says a child will cost around $235,000 from birth to 17 years. The most recent USDA results find that a middle-income family can expect to spend that amount on things like transportation, child care, health care, education and housing. The data shows the annual expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent household range from $12,290 to $14,320.

All of these expenses don’t even include the cost of child birth, which by itself is pricey and can cost tens of thousands of dollars for complicated pregnancies. Tack on prenatal doctor visits, and maternity care can drain any bank account.

When parents make the decision to have a baby and take on the nearly quarter-of-a-million dollar price tag, there are still many things to consider. One of the biggest choices is who will take care of the newborn. Will one parent stay at home or will day care be necessary? The USDA’s report says child care and education accounts for almost 20 percent of child-rearing expenditures, the second-largest expense behind housing, which averages $70,560 over a child’s life. And don’t forget about college. That’ll bring the bill up a few thousand dollars a year.

While the cost of child-rearing is substantial, expenses per child decrease as a family has more kids. With more children, family members can share bedrooms, clothing and toys. And many child care centers and private schools offer sibling discounts. Families with three or more children spend 22 percent less per child than families with two children.

Since the annual study’s inaugural year in 1960, the cost of raising a child has increased by almost $44,000, and that number is expected to continue its upward trend. The decision to start a family is a big choice and one that’s certainly going to continue. But couples should know the costs when making the decision.

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