What We Spend -- and Don't Spend -- to Raise a Child

About a year ago, I shared a story about a conversation I had regarding The Cost of Kids.

From this article in the New York Times, it turns out that calculating how much parents spend on their children is not one-formula-fits-all. The amount spent depends on the income level of the parents.
  • Low-income parents (who earn less than $60,640 annually) spend about $173,000 from birth through high school.
  • Middle-income families (earning between $60,640 to $105,000) spend about $240,000.
  • High-income families (bring in more than $105,000 each year) spend nearly $400,000.

Therefore, this report from the USDA doesn't so much show how much it costs to raise kids, but what is NOT spent on some children, particularly on those growing up in poverty.

The difference between children from the lowest and highest income groups is about $12,000 per year. So, those children are missing out on $12,000 of resources, opportunities, and benefits. At the least, they are dependent on others (outside of their parents) to provide them.

It's not that children from low income families cannot succeed. But when you look at the bigger picture, it becomes obvious that the well-resourced families can provide better opportunities for their children, who in turn are able to provide better opportunities for their children. And so on and so forth.

"When you look at the forest, rather than at the trees, financial statistics like these do reflect different outcomes for the children whose experiences they shape: true economic mobility is becoming more a pipe dream than the American Dream, and children are likely to stay within the income category to which they are born."

For additional reading, check out these posts from my other blog:

**image courtesy of Nick Nguyen via flickr


  1. I know that I have had issue in the past with the way those formulas are calculated because they assume different non essential things are necessary and do not account for varied challenges or opportunities that may present themselves to a family. Also, to me those calculations seem thinly veiled propaganda to justify abortion or other population reduction methods which oversimplify the value of a human line to a dollar figure--this notion is very offensive to me. Thank you for highlighting that it's not as simple as a single dollar figure. Also, I believe liberty and stewardship are big factors as well- the degree to which we do things ourselves versus relying on external resources significantly impacts those calculations. Sometimes having the means doesn't make an option a good choice too. Things like that are hard to account for financially. While raising a child is work, it is an investment, I think ultimately it is a well worthwhile one. :) (I don't mean to imply that you are arguing the opposite, I just felt compelled to add my two cents worth. :) )

  2. *human life, NOT human line* I could've sworn I read my response carefully before posting. O_o

  3. I think you made a great point, "Sometimes having the means doesn't make an option a good choice too." Thanks for your insight (and don't feel so apologetic for adding your 2 cents; heck, my whole blog is MY 2 cents!).