The Cost Of Raising A Child Is Probably Higher Than You Think

New government data puts the cost of raising a kid to age 18 at $230,000

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach
Jan 10, 2017 at 11:03 AM ET

Sure, your one-year-old is cute as a button, but he or she is costing you way more than just sleepless nights. According to the Department of Agriculture’s latest annual report on the cost of raising a child, a middle-income, married-family couple family with two children (the national average) will spend between $12,350 and $13,900 per year on a baby born in 2015, or $233,610 before he or she turns 18. And yes, that’s before the cost of college is even factored in.

Overall, the estimated cost of raising a child in 2015 is 3 percent higher than it was in 2014. While that may not seem all that positive, the report notes that this is below the historic annual rate increase of 4.3 percent. (So even higher costs is probably something you should expect if you’re expecting a new addition to your brood this year.) While transportation costs are down this year because of decreased energy costs, housing, food, clothing, child care/education, and health care are all up.

For the average middle-income family with two children, housing is the most costly expenditure, with food costs coming in second. Child care follows, having increased the most since 1960, when the government first started collecting this data. For those in the lower income bracket, child care and education made up a lower percentage than those of middle income (12 percent compared to 16 percent), while the wealthiest family spend even more, proportionately, maybe because poorer families rely on relatives to watch children. Seeing as quality child care is consistently tied to childhood development, it’s extra concerning that president elect Donald Trump has a child care coverage plan that may best serve the already wealthy.

Of course, these costs can vary greatly by location. According to the report, which is based on survey data of more than 30,000 households, married-couple families in the relatively expensive urban northeast had the highest child-rearing expenses — as much as 24 percent higher than in the urban Midwest and rural areas.

While a household with just one child will spend 26 percent of its annual expenses on the child on average, homes with three kids will spend just under half on them. That’s something economists attribute to hand-me-downs and other shared items, the savings that come from buying in bulk, and comparably mild upticks in transportation costs.

Other major facts that influence total costs include the income level of the family and the age of the child. Turns out, young adults cost more than babies do, something the report attributes to increased demand for food and transportation.

Even if $230,000 doesn’t seem that high, it’s notable that the report does not include time costs, foregone earnings, and career opportunities, which can be pretty much priceless. As we know, babies are not only a drain on the planet and your wallet, but also your likely previously limitless supply of energy and ambition. Maybe think twice?