Of all these costs, housing was the largest, comprising about a third of all expenditures. After that, parents spent the most on child care and education, at 18 percent of the total, and food, 16 percent of the total.
While lower income households spend less on children in absolute dollars, they spend the largest percentages of their income. On average, households in the lowest income group spend a quarter of pre-tax income on a child, while middle-income houses spend 16 percent and high-income ones spend 12 percent.
The largest increases from 2011 were for child care, education, health care, and clothing. While the 2.6 percent increase in total costs is less than the average of 4.4 percent per year since the 1960s, prices have risen 23 percent since then. The first report was issued in 1960, when a middle-income family spent $25,230, or $195,690 in today’s dollars, to raise a child up to age 17. Housing was still the largest expense then, but health care costs have doubled and some costs, notably child care, barely registered.
Some basic expenses are simply out of reach for some families. A third of women report struggling to afford diapers, which few safety net programs will cover.
Meanwhile, the U.S. makes some costs of raising a child much higher than in peer countries. Child care can clock in at $15,000 a year with scant subsidies or free preschool options, while other countries often subsidize or provide free care. Even delivering a child is outrageously expensive in this country as compared to elsewhere: $30,000 for a vaginal birth in the U.S. compared to just $4,039 in France.