Cost of Raising a Child Nearly a Quarter of a Million Dollars

From food and shelter to child care, transportation to health care, there's no doubt that the necessities of life can come at a high price. In fact, it's now estimated to cost a middle-income family almost a quarter of a million dollars – or, more specifically, $245,340 – to raise one child born in 2013.

This figure comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, annual report, Expenditures on Children and Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child. The findings show an increase in cost, up 1.8 percent from 2012, and are based on the price of housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care/education and miscellaneous expenses. This cost does not reflect other expenses such as pregnancy, or the cost of a higher education.

“In today's economy, it's important to be prepared with as much information as possible when planning for the future,” said USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “In addition to giving families with children an indication of expenses they might want to be prepared for, the report is a critical resource for state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments.”

Child care/education is listed in the top three in the cost of raising a child, with costs rising from a negligible rate nationwide in 1960 to 18 percent in 2013. In Los Angeles County, the annual cost for a child to attend preschool at a center is $9,164. For infant care, that cost is $3,000 higher at $12,823 per year, according to data from the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children's Health.

“The USDA report calls attention to the significant portion of a family budget committed to child care,” said Lynette M. Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware® of America. “Access to high-quality child care can be difficult, but it is essential to supporting educational and economic advancement for all families.”

Overall, the single largest expenditure on a child for middle-income families is housing.

Claudia Mendoza, a preschool teacher at Los Angeles Universal Preschool in Rowland Heights, says the costs to retain a highly skilled early education workforce may seem pricey, but is necessary to preserve quality.

“I am also seeing more families looking for quality child care and programs for their young children as they see the need to invest in their child at this early age,” said Mendoza.

To help families in L.A. County with the rising costs for quality early educational services, First 5 LA has recently helped preserve more than 3,200 child care slots in L.A. County. It's through a program called the Los Angeles Early Childhood Education (LA ECE) Bridge Fund that has invested $3.5 million in child care providers to date.

The Cost of Raising a Child report was developed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, or CNPP, and notes that the other two top costs associated with raising a child are food and housing. “Parents have the challenge of providing food that is not only healthful and delicious, but also affordable,” said CNPP Executive Director Angela Tagtow.

The CNPP encourages families to visit resources such as ChooseMyPlate.gov and Healthy Eating On a Budget to learn ways to provide healthy meals that are cost-saving.

Overall, the single largest expenditure on a child for middle-income families is housing, according to the USDA. For the nation, it averages about 30 percent of the total cost.

Locally in Los Angeles and Long Beach, housing costs are much higher than the national average. Recent statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the cost of housing in these cities is double the national average.

For more information on the cost of raising a child, families can enter the number and ages of their children to obtain an estimate of costs with a calculator via the interactive web version of the report, as well as see a colorful infographic showing the difference between regions of the country.

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