This total represents less than a 1% increase from 2008, the smallest increase this decade, which likely reflects the state of the economy, said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. Expenses for child care, education and health care saw the largest percentage increases related to child rearing from 2008, where expenses on transportation actually declined. This decline in transportation expenses for a child mitigated the increases in the other expenses.
Issued annually since 1960, the report is a valuable resource to courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments, according to U.S.D.A. For 2009, per child annual child-rearing expenses for a middle-income, two-parent family range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child.
Family income affects child-rearing costs, according to the study by U.S.D.A.'s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. A family earning less than $56,670 per year can expect to spend a total of $160,410 (in 2009 dollars) on a child from birth through high school. Parents with an income between $56,670 and $98,120 can expect to spend $222,360 and a family earning more than $98,120 can expect to spend $369,360.
In 1960, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 ($182,860 in 2009 dollars) to raise a child through age 17.
Housing costs are the single-largest expenditure on a child, averaging $70,020 or 31% of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education (for those with the expense) and food were the next two largest expenses, accounting for 17% and 16% of the total expenditure, respectively. The estimates do not include the costs associated with pregnancy or the cost of a college education. In addition, some current-day costs, such as child care, were negligible in 1960.
One bright spot is that expenses per child decrease as a family has more children, U.S.D.A. claims. Families with three or more children spend 22% less per child than families with two children. As families have more children, the children can share a bedroom, clothing and toys can be handed down to younger children, food can be purchased in larger and more economical packages, and private schools or child care centers may offer sibling discounts.
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