What kids cost


(Joseph Wu for The Washington Post)
September 16, 2011

We bet you’ve heard your parents say at least a few of these things to you:

“You’re going to eat us out of house and home!”

“You need new sneakers AGAIN?”

“We don’t care if all your friends have a Wii and an Xbox. We’re not made of money.”

All of which probably has given you the idea that feeding you, clothing you, keeping you in a house — not to mention vacations, movies, field trips — costs a fair amount of money.

But do you have any idea HOW MUCH you cost your parents?

$226,920. Does that number surprise you?

We bet it did — and it may surprise your parents a little bit, too.

But that’s what it costs to raise a child from birth to age 17, according to a government report, “Expenditures on Children by Families, 2010.”

Are you wondering how you could possibly cost that much and where all the money goes? Here are some interesting facts from the report, which the government has been revising for the past 50 years.

Big kids cost more than little kids. Babies and toddlers (up to age 2) cost their parents about $11,950 a year, but 15- to 17-year-olds cost almost $14,000. And the 9 to 11 age range that many KidsPost readers fall into: You’re costing your folks $12,660 a year.

So where does the money go? Of that $12,660 your parents will spend on you this year, the biggest chunk (almost $4,000) goes to pay for where you live. You eat your way through $2,310, and getting you to and from school, music lessons and soccer practice costs an additional $1,700.

Parents spend more now than they did 50 years ago. In 1960, it cost parents $185,856 to raise a child from birth to age 17, compared with today’s $226,920. And that’s not because things cost less 50 years ago. The government did a fancy math trick called adjusting for inflation so that the two numbers really can be compared.

Mark Lino, an economist with the Department of Agriculture, which puts together the report, says that the explanation isn’t that today’s parents love their kids more than parents 50 years ago did. There have been big increases in the costs of child care and health care in those years. Today almost 67 percent of mothers work outside the home. Fifty years ago it was about 33 percent. “Child care in 1960 was mostly babysitting while Mom went out shopping or when Mom and Dad went out on a Saturday night,” Lino said.

Families with only one child spend more on that child than do bigger families. But before you go saying that only children are spoiled, Lino says with a laugh, “there really is something to kids being cheaper by the dozen.” There are reasons why parents spend less on that second and third child, Lino says.

●Children can share a bedroom.

●There can be hand-me-down clothes and toys.

●Food can be bought in bigger portions, which are often cheaper.

●Older kids can babysit their younger siblings.

The high cost of whining. And what about those vacations, video games, books, toys, movies? All those little trips to the store where you ask (ahem, whine) for “just one thing” add up to almost $1,100 a year.

There are lots of factors that can affect what parents spend on their children. One of the most obvious is how much your parents earn at work. The more money parents have, the more they will spend on their children, the statistics show. The numbers we are using here are for families with two parents who are called “middle income.” It’s not rich, but it’s also not poor. But even in families that don’t earn a lot of money and so have less to spend on their children, the cost from birth to 17 is more than $163,000.

We bet we know what your parents would say about working hard and spending money so you can have nice things: You’re worth it!

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say, “Thanks, Mom and Dad” or even, at least sometimes, say, “You know, I don’t really need the most expensive sneakers.”

— Tracy Grant

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