WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released USDA's new annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families, which finds that a middle-income family with a child born in 2009 can expect to spend about $222,360 ($286,050 if inflation is factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. This represents less than a 1 percent increase from 2008, the smallest increase this decade, which likely reflects the state of the economy. Expenses for child care, education, and health care saw the largest percentage increases related to child rearing from 2008, whereas expenses on transportation actually declined. This decline in transportation expenses on a child mitigated the increases in the other expenses.

This report, issued annually since 1960, is a valuable resource to courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments. For 2009, per child annual child-rearing expenses for a middle-income, two-parent family ranges from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child.

The report by USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion notes that family income affects child rearing costs. 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 percent 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 percent of the total expenditure. 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.

The report notes geographic variations in the cost of raising a child, with expenses the highest for families living in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West and urban Midwest. Families living in the urban South and rural areas have the lowest child-rearing expenses.

One bright spot is that expenses per child decrease as a family has more children. Families with three or more children spend 22 percent 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.
The full report, Expenditures on Children by Families (2009), is available on the web at www.cnpp.usda.gov.