More women than ever before are having children at a later age, choosing instead to establish a career and a (relatively) stable life. It’s a smart thing to do, if you consider a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has found that the cost of raising a child from birth till age 18 in a 2013 middle-income home is $245,340.
The USDA released its annual “Expenditures on Children and Families” report, which tracks the yearly average costs of raising a kid in different parts of the U.S. Based on the governments Consumer Expenditure Survey, the report found that middle-income parents in the Northeast would face the largest burden, and that they would expect to pay about $282,480 over the 18 years. Families in the urban South and rural regions of the country, on the other hand, could expect the lowest burden, at $230,610 and $193,590, respectively.
Despite such high costs, the cost only represents a 1.8 percent increase from 2012, and the amount parents spent on the top three expense categories — housing, childcare and education, and food — remained the same. Overall, the increase in child-rearing costs is the smallest since the financial crisis, suggesting that the economy is stabilizing. “Improving economic times would definitely help families be able to afford to spend more on kids,” Elizabeth Peters, director of the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg.
The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon also said in a press release that the report will help families with children understand the “expenses they might want to be prepared for.” By far, the largest expense for parents was in housing, comprising 30 percent of all costs. It was followed by childcare and education, at 18 percent of costs, and food, coming in at 16 percent of costs.
With more money being spent on food and education — and housing, of course — it’s a hopeful sign that kids are getting more of the most important things in life. Childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past 30 years, while adolescent obesity has quadrupled during the same period. In part, that increase is due to more children than ever before eating cheaper processed foods, containing high amounts of fat, salt, and sugar, all of which contribute to obesity. With more money to spend, parents will be able to afford healthier foods. When paired with a better education and care, children also learn to avoid risky behaviors, which leads to a better overall lifestyle.
Among low-income (less than $61,630 a year) and higher-income (more than $106,540 a year) families, expected costs for a child born in 2013 were $176,550 and $407,820, respectively. All of the report’s findings were a far cry from the total cost of $198,560 (in 2013 dollars) in 1960 when the first survey was conducted. The current cost, when adjusted for a 2.4 annual increase due to inflation, amounts to $304,480. The USDA also noted that costs fell when there were more children in the family, as children could share bedrooms, parents could buy foods in bulk, and clothing and toys could be handed down.