The $221,000 child

A middle-class family will spend $221,000 to raise a child born in 2008 to age 17, estimates a government report. That doesn’t include college. From Time:

The report by the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion identified housing as the largest single expense, followed by food and child care/education costs.

However, the study overestimates the cost of a kid, argues

First of all, the USDA did not measure what it costs to raise a child, but rather what parents of differing income levels actually spend. There is an important difference between the two.

Second, the methodology behind the USDA, is goofy, as even its own study notes. For example, the largest part of the “cost” of raising children in that $200,000 estimate is more than $53,000 for housing costs. How did the USDA arrive at that figure? It simply assumes that if a couple has two children and a house valued at $200,000, then each family member incurs $50,000 in housing costs,

An Oregon State study urges adults to reduce their “carbon footprint” by having fewer children. It also helps to stay married and get married, so you’ll maintain only one household for two people.

We’ve been hosting my husband’s first grandchild, Baby Julia. She’s definitely a big-footprint child.

About Joanne


  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    An Oregon State study urges adults to reduce their “carbon footprint” by having fewer children.

    The truth is that the birth rates of the most industrialized nations are below replacement level. A birth rate of 2.09 per woman is necessary to maintain the current population in industrialized countries.

    Here is a list of the total fertility rates of the countries of the world. Over 100 of the 224 countries have fertility rates that are below replacement level.

  2. What that figure is composed of:

    * includes middle-class lifestyle
    * assumes that parents will always buy new
    * assumes that you’re starting from ground zero with each child

    In real life, we swap with friends, bargain-hunt, do without (the horror!), & shop flea markets and yard-sales.

    Oh, and tell our kids “we can’t afford it”, which does NOT mean “I’m on the verge of living on the street”, but, instead, “live without it, kid”.

  3. CA Teacher says:

    Overestimates? If anything, it underestimates. I’m a single parent in Southern California, living in a middle-class neighborhood. It costs me $500 MORE a month to rent a 2-bedroom apt. than a 1-bedroom. If I rented a house for optimal “family raising” conditions, it would cost even more. So already, we’re talking $108,000 just for him not to share a room with his mom. Even with extra-cheap child care until he turns 12, we’re talking $40,000 more. It would cost more than that for a parent to stay home for 12 years. That’s $148,000, and we haven’t even gotten to health insurance, medical expenses, food, or clothing yet.

  4. Bill Leonard says:

    As pointed out in the “overestimates” link, the real weakness in the USDA estimate is that it apportions the embedded costs among all members of the household, rather than considering marginal costs — that is, assuming like incomes and embedded housing costs, comparing costs of those with children to those who are childless.

    By “embedded”, — and I hope I am using the term properly — I mean such matters as the cost of mortgage, property taxes, insurance and the like. Variables, including cost of transportation, groceries and so forth then might come into play with children; in our own case, when our kids came along we found that a Volvo wagon was a lot more utilitarian and useful than a VW beetle.

  5. I hate the whole myth that larger families are inherently worse for the environment. I have 3 kids but our family’s lifestyle is a LOT more eco-friendly than most of the families we know who only have 1 or 2 kids.

    -We share 1 economy car and my DH rides the commuter bus to his job. Most families we know own 2 gas guzzling SUV’s and/or luxury cars and both parents drive them many miles on a daily basis to commute to their jobs.

    -We rent a modest-sized townhouse vs. the typical McMansion filled to the gills with stuff.

    -We don’t jet around the world on luxury vacations.

    -We make a conscious effort to eat low on the food chain. No Kobe beef flown in from Japan for us!

    -I typically cook from scratch and avoid highly processed “convenience” foods.

    -My kids wear hand-me-downs and consignment shop finds rather than the latest designer labels.

    It’s all about living simply, not arbitrarily limiting family size…

  6. Wow, to design one’s life around what some group of fanatical Malthusians preach is pathetic. These people have been preaching fewer children for a hundred years, using whatever rationale they believe will resonate the best with the masses. It’s the so-called thinking people who buy into their arguments.

  7. I take the opposite tact when it comes to global warming.

    If everyone had fewer kids, then sure maybe we could possibly halt global warming, but we all know thats not going to happen.

    Therefore, I have much more than the average number of kids (six), increasing the odds that more of my descendent’s will survive global warming.

    Oh, and ditto on the hand-me-downs thing.