It takes a village – and $300,000 – to raise a child
With Father’s Day and Mother’s Day fresh in our memories, it’s a good time to think about everything parents spend caring for their children. According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a middle-income family with a child born in 2011 will spend nearly $235,000 to raise that child over the next 17 years. Factoring in inflation, the estimate goes up to more than $295,000 – and that is just direct costs incurred by parents.
The real costs of raising a child are even higher: the report doesn’t take into account money spent by adults outside the child’s household, money from government programs, the costs associated with pregnancy, or indirect costs like parents’ time and foregone career opportunities. The report also excludes any costs after the child turns 18 – such as contributing to college tuition or continuing financial support, which is increasingly common given the current state of the job market for young adults. We all know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” but with these staggering numbers it’s clear why it takes so many resources to help every child succeed.
According to the USDA report, the single largest expenditure on children is housing, which many parents in D.C. know all too well. D.C. housing costs are among the highest in the country. For both single-parent and two-parent households, the most expensive spending categories were housing, food, and child care/education. Single parents spent slightly less money on their children overall, but the costs of parenthood took up a larger proportion of their incomes. WOW’s DC BEST project details what D.C. families must earn to attain basic economic security: a single parent with one preschooler and one schoolchild will need to earn over $85,000 annually for her family, while a similar family with two working adults will need $94,000 combined, and each can afford to earn less.
Knowing more about the economic stress of raising children can point to ideas for targeting support to families in D.C. According to D.C. KIDS COUNT, half of D.C. families are headed by single mothers. For some wards (5, 7 and 8), it’s even more. Median family income in four wards (1, 5, 7 and 8) is less than $50,000. These parents, and all parents in D.C., will need help and support to make ends meet and provide for their children’s future. That includes growing the number of high-quality, affordable childcare, housing, school and grocery options in the neighborhoods that need them most. What do you think of the cost of raising children? Is it higher or lower than you expected? What would you do to help D.C. families meet rising costs?