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Raising a child costs middle-income families $221,000

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | 4:54 p.m. CDT; updated 5:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ST. LOUIS — It's no secret that raising children can be expensive, but how about nearly a quarter of a million dollars expensive?

A government report released Tuesday said a middle-income family with a child born last year will spend about $221,000 raising that child through age 17.

The report by the United States Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion identified housing as the largest single expense, followed by food and child care/education costs. The $221,000 in expenses rises to about $292,000 when adjusted for inflation.

USDA economist Mark Lino, who co-authored the report with Andrea Carlson, said he often hears people say children cost a lot when the annual findings are issued.

"I tell them children also have many benefits, so you have to keep that in mind," he said.

Families with more income spend more money on child-related costs, the report said. A two-parent family that earns less than $57,000 annually will spend about $160,000 on a child from birth through high school. Those with an income between $57,000 and $99,000 spend about $221,000 and those with higher incomes are expected to spend roughly $367,000 through age 17.

Most single-parent households in the U.S. make less than $57,000 and are expected to spend about 7 percent less on child-rearing costs compared to two-parent households in that same income group, according to the report.

Costs of raising a child are highest in the urban northeast and lowest in the urban south and rural areas.

The USDA report helps courts and states determine child-support guidelines and foster care payments. It does not address costs specifically related to childbearing and paying for college.

One of the largest changes over time has been the increase in costs related to care for young children.

The report was first issued in 1960, when such costs were largely negligible, but with more working families turning to outside help with child care, it has grown to be a significant expense for many families. The report does not give total costs related to early child care.

A mother of three, Raben Andrews of St. Louis said the government figures sounded right to her. "Well, that's not half of it," joked the 42-year-old public school teacher. "I still have to put the little buggers through college."


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Comments

Charles Dudley Jr August 4, 2009 | 7:26 p.m.

NBC reports said the total was more like $297k per year.

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