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Ouch! The cost of raising a child has risen again

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15 2013 12:25 p.m. MDT

The USDA says it will cost about 2.6 percent more to raise a child born in 2012 than one born in 2011.

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SALT LAKE CITY — You didn't imagine it: It does cost more to raise a child to 18 than in the past, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new annual estimate on what a middle-income family with a child born in 2012 can expect to spend.

The price tag — $241,080 in 2012 dollars or an inflation-adjusted $301,970 by the time adulthood arrives — includes food, shelter and other necessities associated with child rearing for 17 years. College is an expensive add-on not included in the report.

The 2013 USDA Cost of Raising a Child report says the expected expense is a 2.6 percent increase over the cost associated with a 2011 birth. It includes larger increases in how much one will spend on child care, education, health care and clothing, with smaller increases for housing, food, transportation and various other expenses.

Still, it's a smaller increase than usual. From 1960, the average increase has been about 4.4 percent each year.

The cost report is not trivial, according to USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "As the economy continues to recover, families are naturally cost conscious," he said in a written statement. "This report gives families with children a greater awareness of the expenses they are likely to face. The report is also a valuable resource for courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments."

If the sticker shock has you reeling, remind yourself that a 2012 study in Psychological Science showed parents are happier and find more meaning in their lives than non-parents. The research, by psychologists at University of British Columbia, University of California Riverside and Stanford, found parents are happier caring for children than they are during other daily activities. That appeared to be especially true for men, and older and married parents.

As Dr. Peter Zafirides wrote for The Healthy Mind at the time, "The findings are among a new wave of research that suggests that parenthood comes with relatively more positives than negatives, despite the added responsibilities." Even evolutionists suspect "parenting may be a fundamental human need," he added.

Then, as now, cost per child drops as a family has more children. The report says families with three or more children spend 22 percent less per child than those with two children. The kids end up sharing bedrooms, clothing and toys passed down to younger ones. Food is purchased in bulk and schools and child-care centers sometimes offer sibling discounts.

Crunching numbers

But about that cost...

It's based on data from the federal Consumer Expenditure Survey, which found that in the year 2012, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a two-parent, middle-income family ranged from $12,600 to $14,700. It was a range because costs vary depending on how old a child is. There's a fair amount of difference, for instance, in feeding a teenager and a toddler and what it costs.

The report also offers an income range and variable cost estimate. A family earning less than $60,640 a year can expect to spend $173,490 in 2012 dollars over 17 years. A family earning more than $105,000 can expect to spend just shy of $400,000. The middle-income group that's center stage in the report earns between $60,640 and $105,000.

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