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Raising Children: Costly but Worth It


"You're eating us out of house and home!" "Do you think money grows on trees?" "What do you mean, you need a $100 pair of flip-flops?" "No, you can't have the latest iPad the second it comes out!"

Parents often pull out such zingers when the cost of housing, feeding, clothing, educating and entertaining children starts depleting the family checkbook. Now, they can offer empirical evidence of just how high that cost can be. The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week released its annual Expenditures on Children and Families report. The report, which has been compiled since 1960, uses Consumer Expenditure Survey Data compiled by the Census Bureau, in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to estimate the annual expenditures on children from birth through age 17. It shows that on average, a middle-income, twoparent U.S. family will spend $245,340 — roughly $14,432 a year — to raise a child born in 2013 to age 17. Breaking that down by component, housing is the No. 1 expense at 30 percent, followed by child care and education at 18 percent, food at 16 percent, transportation at 14 percent, health care and miscellaneous (the fun stuff) at 8 percent and clothing at 6 percent.

The figure varies by region — $282,480 in the urban Northeast, $261,330 in the urban West, $240,570 in the urban Midwest, $230,610 in the urban South and $193,590 in rural areas — as well as by income status.

Large families get a break, though, because of kids sharing toys and bedrooms and the advantages of buying food and the like in bulk.

It's interesting to compare the present breakdown with the initial report in 1960.

Raising a child still wasn't cheap — $198,560 from birth to 17 in 2013 dollars — and housing and food remained the top expenses, at 31 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

However, child care and education was at the bottom at 2 percent, probably because there really was no child care in that era, when two parents working was the exception rather than the norm.

So, will parents begin using the calculator apps on their smartphones — we'll grant that nod to modern technology — for family planning? Set up a document on their tablets projecting their future income levels to see how many kids they can afford?

No way. They'll do in 2023 what they did in 2013 and 1960.

Zingers aside, parents instinctively understand that there are some things that shouldn't have a price tag, because they're priceless.




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