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High Cost of Raising a Child in America

  • Les Carpenter

It is said that babies don't come with an instruction manual. So, raising them through childhood, the school years and off to college is a long and expensive process.

How expensive? The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it partly depends on income and can range from a low of $55,000 to more than $365,000 from birth to adulthood at age 18.


The USDA's “Expenditures on Children by Families” report states that housing makes up about one-third of the costs, while food, childcare and education, on average, run about 16 percent of the total cost. Childbirth, private education or college is not included.

The expenses vary depending on location and income. Costs are highest in the northeastern part of the United States. Urban areas of the west and Midwest are next. The South and rural areas across the country are significantly less expensive.

In 2008, raising a child from birth to 18 can cost a middle-income, two-parent American family an average of $221,190. When adjusted for inflation, that rises to more than $290,000. On an annual basis, that would range from $11,610 to $13,480 depending on the age of the child. Those 2008 costs are slightly higher than in 2007 and much higher than the $25,000 figure in the first report in 1960, more than $183,000, in 2008 dollars.

The USDA report has been updated annually since 1960. The information is designed to be a resource for courts and state governments in deciding child support guidelines and foster care payments.

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