The Cost of Raising a Child in the USA

Pair Of Baby Sock With Dollar Hanging On Rope Using Wooden Clip

You’ve heard it before: “Kids are expensive.” But now a new report has calculated approximately HOW expensive: $245,340, to be exact. Yep, that’s what the USDA’s Expenditures on Children and Families study says it will cost today’s parents to raise a baby who was born last year, in 2013, to the age of 18.

Yikes!

Precisely how much it’ll cost you varies by region. So say, if you’re in the urban South, a little one will run ya just about $231K and if you live in a rural area, you’ll get by on a lean $193K-ish. The priciest, of course, is where I live, in the urban Northeast, where it’s $282K-ish.

The top expenses in the report are housing, food, and child care and education. Even adjusted for inflation that’s a lot higher than it was in 1960, with the biggest chunk being a MUCH higher child care expense.

This can make a New York City mama with a 2013 baby sigh. Though it’s not shocking, of course–it’s already been incredibly pricey, starting with the little dude’s birth, which we’re still paying off even though we have good insurance (and the report doesn’t even cover pregnancy!). And looking at our specific income bracket, it’s clearly going to cost even more than average. Every time I add something “essential” to my cart on Amazon (must. have. PRIME.), those dollar signs ratchet a little higher. Though my kid isn’t even 10 months, it feels like I’ve already spent about $200K in diapers, wipes, teething-supportive devices (mesh bags, silicone nubby things, freezable nubbie things, infant ibuprofen), bottles, nipples, clothing (the disadvantage of having a baby late in life is that most of the hand-me-downs have already been handed down), bath toys, purée in squeezy things, and more. This is all a privilege, I realize, one I actually enjoy. I’m having one kid and he’s going to have many chew toy options, dammit!

But the larger, actual reality is scary and sad. As a nation we simply don’t prioritize kids and families. We’re the only developed nation that doesn’t have paid maternity leave or universally subsidized daycare. Homelessness among families with kids is at a high. Public education is often under-funded and under attack. We’re a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps nation, but kids don’t have bootstraps. They have parents working three jobs. Employers who try to avoid hiring people with kids. Employers firing pregnant workers. And a sizable voter faction that cries “Socialism!” every time concerned citizens and politicians move to fix any of this.


Honestly, I don’t know what to do about this, except buy another crinkly book and pray that inflation doesn’t make this number any higher by the time my 2013 guy hits school age.

What do you make of this report? Does it freak you out, or is about what you’d expect?

Valerie Reiss is the Managing Editor of Mom365.