Raising a child is expensive. From the day your baby is born until the day they turn 18, your family will spend about $310,605 — or about $17,000 a year, according to a new Brookings Institution analysis of data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The exact amount will vary depending on how much you earn and where you live. Families in the urban Northeast typically spend the most, for example, while those in the urban Midwest and rural areas spend the least. And while families with lower incomes spend less overall, government studies show they devote a larger share of their budgets to their children.
If your household has an annual income of
you are likely to spend
over 18 years.
When your child is between the ages of
you are likely to spend
in one year.
In that year, here's where your money goes:
The costs here are based on families with two children. Families who have three children are likely to see costs diminish with each additional child, while families who have only one child are likely to pay a little more. Still, with inflation rising at its quickest pace in 40 years, you’ll probably feel the pinch of parenting regardless of who you are.
Here’s how your annual spending to raise a child might break down:
Housing is the largest expense, accounting for as much as one-third of child-related spending. But it’s tricky to measure. Having children can mean moving to a house with more bedrooms, bigger kitchens and larger living spaces. But it also can mean moving to the suburbs, where costs tend to be lower than in city centers.
According to data from the USDA, lower-income families spend about 8.7 percent of their income on housing a child. For middle-income families, it’s 4.5 percent. And for higher-income families — who spend a smaller share of their income on housing overall — it’s 2.9 percent.
Education and child care can take up another big chunk of the family budget. On average, it accounts for about 16 percent of child-related spending, research shows. Young children can be particularly expensive, given that day care can cost more than college.
But most families report spending nothing on child care. They may rely on family members to babysit or opt to send their children to public school when they are of school-age. That means families who hire nannies, send their children to private schools and pay for an array of summer camps and special programs are likely to spend far more than the average amount reflected here.
Regardless of income, families tend to spend more on food as their children get older.
“Teenagers are the most expensive,” said Mark Lino, an economist at the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and the lead author of the USDA report. “They eat more.”
Data show that families devote roughly 18 percent of their child-care budgets to food, a category that includes groceries, school lunches and restaurant meals — all of which have been hit hard by inflation.
Transportation costs — car payments, gas, insurance, airline fares and public transportation — peak when children are between the ages of 15 and 17. That’s the time when many teenagers start driving, of course. But it also reflects increased participation in activities farther away from home, USDA data show.
“These are the years when they start to drive, so you add them to your insurance or even buy them a car,” Lino said.
Overall, health care accounts for about 9 percent of child-related spending, but families with higher incomes tend to spend much more. In addition to increased insurance premiums, these costs include medical, dental and mental health services not covered by insurance as well as prescription drugs.
From diapers to Dr. Martens, and Garanimals to graduation robes, apparel accounts for about 6 percent of child-related spending. Unlike most other costs, that figure has fallen over the past 50 years as Americans have turned to cheap clothing manufactured overseas. Also unusual: The cost of clothing tends to fluctuate from year to year depending on the latest trends.
This catchall category includes just about everything else: necessities like toothbrushes and haircuts, as well as frills like piano lessons, sports equipment and video games. On average, these costs make up about 7 percent of a family’s child-related budget.
Editing by Karly Domb Sadof, Jen Liberto and Lori Montgomery. Graphics editing by Kate Rabinowitz. Design editing by Madison Walls. Copy editing by Brandon Standley. Graphics by Chris Alcantara and Nick Mourtoupalas. Design and development by Stephanie Hays.
The Post used data from “Expenditures on Children by Families” published by the U.S. Agriculture Department from the 1990s through 2017 to arrive at the costs presented here. The reports summarize spending detailed in the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The most recent report used surveys from 2011 through 2015.
The report detailed spending by family income and by age of the children. Within those groupings, spending as a share of family income has been relatively consistent over time. Families with less money spend less overall but a larger share of their income; families with more money spend more overall but a smaller share of their income.
The Post used spending by share of income — broken out by income range and child age — to estimate annual dollar figures for housing, transportation, food, child care/education, clothing, health care and miscellaneous costs. While this estimate reflects typical spending in each category, individual families are likely to have very different expenditures, higher in some categories and lower in others. Because of this uncertainty, The Post expressed rounded costs to the nearest $100.
The USDA estimates cover spending for a single child in a two-child family. Because of economies of scale, the USDA estimates spending on an only child would be 27 percent higher than the listed amounts, while per-child spending in a family with three children would be 24 percent lower. The Post disregarded these distinctions and used only the estimates for two-child families.
The estimates are based on what a family spends. They do not account for government subsidies or benefits, or the value of parental time spent caring for children.
The analysis is fixed in time by the current family income. There is no adjustment for future inflation in prices or changes in family income. There are no adjustments for pandemic-induced special circumstances, such as shortages or price spikes. Savings for higher education are not included. The USDA report contains a methodology and evaluation of the results.