WASHINGTON — Millions of American families continue struggling each day when deciding which meat and poultry items to choose at retail or order from the menu for their children, but here’s some astounding news about the bigger child-rearing cost picture. A middle-income family with a child born in 2008 can expect to spend about $221,190 ($291,570 when adjusted for inflation) for food, shelter and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years — and this estimate does not include the cost of childbearing or a college education. So states the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new study titled "Expenditures on Children by Families".

For 2008, annual child-rearing expenses for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $11,610 to $13,480, depending on the age of the child.

Family income affects child-rearing costs, notes U.S.D.A.'s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. A family earning less than $56,870 a year can expect to spend a total of $159,870 (in 2008 dollars) on a child from birth through high school. Parents with an income between $56,870 and $98,470 can expect to spend $221,190; and a family earning more than $98,470 can expect to spend $366,660. In 1960, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($183,509 in 2008 dollars) to raise a child through age 17.

Housing costs are the single-largest expenditure for a child, averaging $69,660 or 32% of the total cost over 17 years. Food and child care/education (for those with the expense) were the next two largest expenses, each averaging 16% of the total expenditure.