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Cost to Raise a Child in US Continues to Rise

  • Deborah Block

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount.

A visit with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, shed some light on whether or not the report reflects their lifestyle.

Eddie Byrd, and his wife Gabriela, who is from Peru, dote over their only child - five-year-old Brandy.

Her father said they spend whatever they have to for her. “You look at it as an investment in another human being who you love very deeply,” he said.

The expenses began adding up even before Brandy was born.

“You have to put together your nursery, you have to get a stroller, all of those things, and you’ve invested several thousand dollars,” said Byrd.

According to the Agriculture Department report, the biggest cost of raising a child is housing, followed by childcare, education and food. Other expenses include clothing, transportation, and activities for the child.

It’s all having an impact on this middle-class family in the pricey Washington, D.C., area.

“We’re not doing well financially. It’s a struggle from month to month,” he said.

And while it’s a struggle for many parents worldwide to raise children, some countries are making it easier by providing subsidized health and child care, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland and Australia.

The Byrds are saving on child care costs since Gabriela is a stay-at-home mom. But like many middle-class families, they are paying for additional activities for Brandy, such as ballet and swimming classes.

“It’s not like when I was growing up, when I could hop on my bicycle at home and ride 5 miles into town and spend the day in town, come back in the afternoon. There are bad people out there these days,” said Byrd.

He said education is one of his biggest expenses, since they decided to send Brandy to a private Catholic school. He’s concerned that, years from now, paying for Brandy’s college education will be out of reach.

“She’ll have to work herself to get through college, or hopefully, college won’t even exist the way it does today, and there will be alternative means for her education,” said Byrd.

As older parents, Byrd said, he and Gabriela’s dream of an early retirement isn’t going to happen.

“We hoped to return to Peru in retirement and live there. The savings that we would have had are now going into our child and our family,” said Byrd.

But he noted it's well worth the investment.