The USDA has released the 2015 Expenditures on Children by Families report, also known as “The Cost of Raising a Child.” The report, developed by economists at USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), estimates that for a child born in 2015, a middle-income* married-couple family will spend between $12,350 and $13,900 annually (in 2015 dollars) – or $233,610 from birth through age 17 – on child-rearing expenses. Families with lower incomes are expected to spend $174,690 and families with higher incomes are expected to spend $372,210 from birth through age 17. Many state governments use this annual report, first issued in 1960, as a resource in determining child support and foster care guidelines.
The report details spending by married-couple and single-parent households; for married-couple households, spending in various regions of the country are examined. Housing (29 percent) and food (18 percent) account for the largest share of child-rearing expenses for middle-income, married-couple families, followed by childcare/education (16 percent), transportation (15 percent), and health care (9 percent). Clothing was the smallest expense, at 6 percent, and other miscellaneous child-rearing necessities from birth to age 18 accounted for 7 percent. This report does not include costs related to pregnancy or college costs.
“When CNPP first issued this report in 1960, housing and food were the two highest expenses, just as they are today,” said CNPP Executive Director Angie Tagtow. “But while housing costs have increased over time, changes in American agriculture have resulted in lower food costs, and family food budgets now represent a lower percentage of household income.”
Across the country, costs were highest in the urban Northeast, urban West, and urban South; while lowest in the urban Midwest and rural areas. Much of the regional variation in expenses was related to housing. Differences in child care and education expenses also contributed to regional variation. Overall, child-rearing expenses in rural areas were 24 percent lower than those in the region with the highest expenses, the urban Northeast.
It is important to note that child-rearing costs vary greatly depending on the number and ages of children in a household. As family size increases, costs per child generally decrease.