NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cost of Raising a Child

May 15, 2003

Every newborn child is a bundle of joy. But you better have a bundle of cash on hand if you want to raise one.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, in 2002, families making $65,800 a year or more will spend a whopping $249,180 to raise a child from birth through age 17.

Though not as steep, the figures for lower-income families are just as unsettling:

  • The cost will be $170,460 for families earning $39,100 to $65,800 and $124,800 for families making less than $39,100.
  • That breaks down to more than $13,400 a year from birth to age 2 for families in the $65,800 -plus income bracket.
  • As your child ages, he or she gets even more expensive, topping out at $14,670 from ages 15 to 17.

Nor is there much in the way of cost-effectiveness for larger families.

  • With an older child of 16, the USDA study says, a family with a second child under 2 lays out $19,170 for the both of them each year, with the numbers growing progressively as the children get older.
  • With three children -- the two older ones being 16 and 13 -- a third child aged 2 years or less rings up an annual bill of $22,470.

On the down side, the study doesn't take into account certain expenses incurred by some families, such as heavy medical bills or pricey private schools. It's a composite average and, by definition, that means your numbers either will be a little (or a lot) higher or lower. Even worse, since the survey ends at age 17, it doesn't take into account the millions of college students who are supported in part or in full by their parents. That's another $20,000 to $150,000 for a four-year education, depending on the school.

Source: Jeff Wuorio, "Raising your quarter-million dollar baby,", May 13, 2003.


Browse more articles on Government Issues