Deciding to have a child is no small decision — and these days, it's one that you need to be as financially ready for as you are emotionally. Despite your parents' and grandparents' complaints about the difficult ol' days, raising a child today can, at times, be an even more expensive endeavor for millennials than it was for the generations who raised them. In fact, you might be surprised to know just how much it costs to raise a kid now versus back in the 1980s and 1990s — and you might be surprised by which generation got the most expensive parenting bill.
If your child was born this decade — say, in 2015 — you can expect to pay a whopping $233,610 for their first 17 years of life alone, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture. That number is based on the money shelled out annually on kid-related expenses by middle-class, married-couple families, and it can drop down to $174,690 for families with lower incomes or shoot up to $372,210 for those with more cash to burn. And none of those estimates include costs related to pregnancy or kids' college careers, which can tack on tens of thousands of extra costs.
A child born in the year 1982, on the other hand, would have cost a middle-income family an average of $198,765 (or rather, $80,926 adjusted for inflation), according to a New York Times article published in 1983. It's not a huge difference, but raising a kid today is still close to $35,000 more pricey than it was in the 1980s.
Middle-income parents in the 1990s, however, were the ones who got hit with the largest costs related to raising kids. For children born in 1990, parents could expect to pay around $365,566 (or $210,070 adjusted for inflation) by the time their kid turned 17. As a millennial, ahem, may I just extend the deepest and most sincere apology to my parents.
Parents today might not feel like it's that much cheaper to raise a child than it was in the 1990s, but the difference in cost could come down to innovation's role in cutting the costs of certain products. The average price for durable goods has decreased by 0.1 percent a year since 1990, according to the Brookings Institute, and it's never taken Americans fewer hours of work in order to save up for a car.
Despite the dropping costs of goods, of course, some prices have grown at a faster rate than even increasing incomes have, including child care, tuition, and hospital services, according to the Brookings Institute. The cost of college and university tuition, however, as well as childbirth and pregnancy expenses, is not included in estimated child raising costs.
Regardless of the generational difference in costs, however, the biggest expenses in families' lives have mostly stayed the same from decade to decade, with housing, food, child care, and education largely chewing holes through parents' pockets. And families' concerns have remained just as high throughout the years, with one mom, Mary Donberg, telling The Los Angeles Times in 1991:
It's kind of scary. It's as if someone has sold you a $200,000 item with weekly payments for the next 17 years.
Something tells me moms in 2017 feel about the same as Donberg does. No matter when you have them, raising a kid is a pricey endeavor — and it's unlikely that we'll see the total cost of having one go down until politicians start making free health care, education, and child care a reality. (In the meantime, we'll all just have to weigh the pros and cons of buying a Tesla roadster versus having a child.)
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