Expenditures on Children by Families

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Author(s): The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Published: Jan. 9, 2017

Report Intro/Brief:
"Since 1960, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided estimates of annual expenditures on children from birth through age 17. This technical report presents the 2015 estimates for married-couple and single-parent families. Results are shown in tables 1-7 at the end of this report. Expenditures are provided by age of children, household income level, major budgetary component (housing, food, etc.), and region (for married-couple families).

Data used to estimate expenditures on children are from the 2011-15 Consumer Expenditure Survey‒Interview (CE), administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, under contract with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor. This survey is the most comprehensive source of information on household expenditures available at the national level. The sample consisted of 23,297 married-couple households and 7,030 single-parent households and was weighted to reflect the U.S. population of interest by using BLS weighting methods.

The CE collects overall household expenditure data for some budgetary components (housing, food, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services) and child-specific expenditure data for other components (clothing, child care, and education). Child-specific expenses were allocated directly to children. Food and health care expenses were allocated to children based on findings from Federal surveys on children’s budget shares. Family-related transportation expenses and miscellaneous expenses were allocated by using a per capita method. This method is preferable over a marginal cost method that measures child-rearing expenditures as the difference in expenses between equivalent couples with and without children. The average cost of an additional bedroom approach was used to estimate housing expenses on a child. All data are presented in 2015 dollars for comparison across years.

This technical report presents the most recent child-rearing expense estimates for married-couple and single-parent families using data from the 2011-15 Consumer Expenditure Survey. Expenditures for major budgetary components estimated in this study consisted of direct parental expenses made on children from birth through age 17. The 2015 estimate for child-rearing expenses from birth through age 17 in a two-child, middle-income, married-couple family is $233,610. Expenses vary considerably by household income level and composition. The large variation in expenditures on children underscores that there is not a standard cost to raise a child in the United States. The direct and indirect costs of raising children are considerable, absorbing a major share of the household budget."