The Cost of Raising a Child From Baby to Age 18

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It’s no secret that raising a child is expensive. Most parents will admit that the extra cost of food, clothes, schooling, and medical bills having a child has dramatically changed their financial situation. 

So if you’re a new parent, soon-to-be parent, or are hoping to be one in the future, planning for the cost of raising a child will be essential to your overall budget and long-term financial plan.

How much money does it cost to raise a child?

According to a study conducted by The United States Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child from birth through the age of 17 will cost $233,610. However, this number is only an average and is highly likely to differ for every household.

Your lifestyle and financial choices can increase or decrease what it will cost to raise your child. It is also important to note that the average cost only calculates raising a child to the age of 17. The average leaves out college costs, an expense many parents consider essential.

Figuring out how much it will cost to raise your children is more complicated than looking at average numbers online. However, looking at all the pieces that go into the overall cost of raising a child can help you understand what to expect and how to save for these future costs potentially. 

Our guide, with the help of data reviewed from the latest Expenditures on Children by Families (2015), will walk you through the costs of housing, childcare, nutrition, and more to help you determine how factors such as your income level and location can make a big difference in the total expense of raising your child.

A quick note about the data within this article.

As mentioned, the information and data used to create this article come from a study released by the United States Department of Agriculture – USDA, titled Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015 and revised in 2017.

The full 37-page study can be downloaded by clicking the link.

Since 2017, there have not been any revisions added to the main 2015 study that we are aware of. Therefore the majority of the dollar figures are heavily based on 2015 data.

However, a vital section within the study titled “Estimating Future Expenditures” utilizes an average 2.2 percent inflation rate to provide an outlook on the future costs of raising a child.

If we factor in an annual average inflation rate of 2.2 percent, starting from the $233,610 cost it took to raise a child in the 2015 data, we could estimate the cost of raising a child in 2022.

Based on that data from 2015, we have been able to track the yearly cost of raising a child by applying a 2.2% inflation rate from the previous year.

  • Average cost of raising a child in 2016: $238,749
  • Average cost of raising a child in 2017: $244,002
  • Average cost of raising a child in 2018: $249,370
  • Average cost of raising a child in 2019: $254,856
  • Average cost of raising a child in 2020: $260,463
  • Average cost of raiding a child in 2021: $266,193
  • Average cost of raising a child in 2022: $272,049

For the purpose of keeping true to the most recent data, the rest of article will follow the 2015 data documented in the United States Department of Agriculture.

Cost of Raising a Child Based on Income Level

Income level makes a substantial difference in the cost of raising a child. That is because people at higher income levels have more money available to spend on children.

As a result, they often make choices for their children that significantly increase the total cost of raising a child. This includes expenses such as private school, vacations, sports or music lessons, personal vehicles, and more. 

According to The United States Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child by income-level are:

  • Lower-income families (annual income less than $59,200) = $174,690 
  • Middle-income families (annual income between $59,200 and $107,400) = $233,610
  • Higher-income families (annual income over $107,400) = $372,210 

These estimates are for two-parent homes. In single-parent homes, households with an annual income of less than $59,200 spend an average of $172,200, and single-parent families with a yearly income of $99,000 will spend an average of $319,020.

Necessary Expenses That Come With Raising a Child

Several key pieces account for the total cost of raising a child. These expenses are essential to raising a child from birth until they have reached the legal adult age of 18.

Non-negotiable expenses required to raise a child include:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Clothing
  • Health Care
  • Child Care and Education

Based on your income level, you are likely to pay more or less for items within these categories, but providing them is a fundamental responsibility of having a child.

Below is a chart showing a breakdown of the estimated costs for all essential expenses at each income group utilizing an average annual income. All estimates are based on the latest 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey data for the cost of raising a child by married-couple families in the United States. 

Before tax annual income: Less than $59,200 (Average Income = $36,300)

  • The average cost for a married couple to raise a child age 0-17 on an annual income of less than $59,200 is estimated to be $174,690.
  • The average cost for a single parent to raise a child age 0-17 on an annual income of less than $59,200 is estimated to be $172,200.
Age of childTotal expenseHousingFoodTransportationClothingHealth careChild care / EducationMisc
0-2$9,690$3,160$1,310$1,200$670$820$2,080$450
3-5$9,700$3,160$1,350$1,250$540$760$2,080$450
6-8$9,330$3,160$1,930$1,310$540$790$920$680
9-11$9,960$3,160$2,200$1,350$690$900$920$740
12-14$9,570$3,160$2,290$1,500$740$860$440$580
15-17$9,980$3,160$2,300$1,500$740$860$440$560
Total Expenses$174,690$56,880$34,140$24,900$11,700$15,120$21,240$10,710

Before tax annual income: Less than $59,200 to $107,400 (Average Income = $81,700)

  • The average cost for a married couple to raise a child age 0-17 on an annual income of $81,700 is estimated to be $233,610.
Age of childTotal expenseHousingFoodTransportationClothingHealth careChild care / EducationMisc
0-2$12,680$3,680$1,580$1,790$750$1,180$2,870$830
3-5$12,730$3,680$1,690$1,840$600$1,110$2,870$940
6-8$12,350$3,680$2,280$1,900$600$1,130$1,710$1,050
9-11$13,180$3,680$2,680$1,940$780$1,280$1,710$1,110
12-14$13,030$3,680$2,780$2,090$860$1,240$1,430$950
15-17$13,900$3,680$2,790$2,270$830$1,300$2,090$940
Total Expenses$233,610$66,240$41,400$35,490$13,260$21,720$38,040$17,460

Before tax annual income: More than $107,400 (Average = $185,400)

  • The average cost for a married couple to raise a child age 0-17 on an annual income of $185,400 is estimated to be $327,210.
Age of childTotal expenseHousingFoodTransportationClothingHealth careChild care / EducationMisc
0-2$19,770$5,460$2,210$2,590$1,110$1,580$5,170$1,650
3-5$19,790$5,460$2,320$2,640$940$1,490$5,170$1,770
6-8$19,380$5,460$2,960$2,690$940$1,440$4,010$1,880
9-11$20,700$5,460$3,570$2,740$1,180$1,800$4,010$1,940
12-14$21,050$5,460$3,560$2,890$1,310$1,740$4,310$1,780
15-17$23,380$5,460$3,720$3,070$1,280$1,820$6,270$1,760
Total Expenses$327,210$98,280$55,020$49,860$20,280$29,610$86,820$32,340

Housing Expenses

Lower-Income Families
Total Expenses 33%
Middle-Income Families
Total Expenses 29%
Higher-Income Families
Total Expenses 26%

Housing is the largest expense of raising a child. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that housing costs accounted for 33% of all essential costs of raising a child for the lower-income group, 29% for the middle-income group, and 26% for the highest income group for married-couple families.

Basic housing expenses include:

  • Rental payments
  • Mortgage payments
  • Property taxes
  • Home repairs
  • Utilities
  • Household appliances 
  • Furniture

Of course, people without children also have these everyday expenses, but they’re often much higher for people raising children. For instance, you might need a larger home with more bedrooms, need to make repairs more often, replace furniture more frequently, or need new appliances due to wear and tear. 

How much these costs go up will depend on your personal choices and overall finances, but you can count on an increase when raising a child. 

Food Expenses

Lower-Income Families
Total Expenses 20%
Middle-Income Families
Total Expenses 18%
Higher-Income Families
Total Expenses 15%

Food expenses came in at the second biggest expense of raising a child for both lower and middle-income families. These expenses accounted for an average of 20% of the total costs for lower-income families and 18% for middle-income families. 

Food expenses were the third-highest for high-income earning families, totaling 15% of the total cost of raising a child.

Food and other nutrition costs increase as children get older, starting around age 6. Generally, it costs a lot more to feed a teenager than an infant. However, nutritional choices such as formula feeding or specialized diets can also drive up those costs.

Transportation Expenses

Lower-Income Families
Total Expenses 14%
Middle-Income Families
Total Expenses 15%

Transportation expenses include car payments, vehicle loans, down payments, gas, oil changes, maintenance, and insurance. The study also lumped in public transportation such as airline fares.

When broken down into income groups, transportation accounted for 14% of the total expenses to raising a child in the lower-income group and 15% for middle-income families. 

For all income groups, transportation expenses increased when children reached age 15 and continued to 17. The increase is highly likely due to children starting driving, increasing all transportation-related costs.

Clothing Expenses

Families of all income levels
Total Expenses 7%

Clothing expenses for a child consist of children’s apparel such as diapers, shirts, pants, dresses, suits, footwear, and clothing services such as alterations and repair.

At all income levels, clothing expenses accounted anywhere from 5-7% of the total cost to raise a child.

Educational Expenses

Lower-Income Families
Total Expenses 12%
Middle-Income Families
Total Expenses 16%
Higher-Income Families
Total Expenses 23%

Educational expenses are another large portion of the total cost to raise a child. However, this can vary dramatically depending on your family’s financial situation.

Educational expenses tend to be a much larger part of the overall cost of raising a child for higher-income families.

This is because educational expenses are heavily influenced by a private school or public school choices. High-income families are more likely to afford tuition costs at a private school, driving up their total education expenses. 

Other education expenses include:

  • Uniforms
  • School supplies
  • Textbooks
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Tutoring services
  • High school tuition

How does college factor into what it cost to raise a child?

As mentioned above, the United States Department of Agriculture doesn’t factor college savings into their estimates of the cost of raising a child.

However, setting aside a college fund is a priority for many families. According to a CNBC report, about 47 percent of Americans had some sort of college fund set up for their children.

How much to set aside depends on your budget and other financial planning. To get an idea of how much you might need, check out the average prices for college (including tuition, room and board, and books) for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • Private college: $54,800
  • State college (out-of-state): $44,150
  • Stage college (in-state): $27,330

Childcare Costs

Lower-Income Families
Total Expenses 12%
Middle-Income Families
Total Expenses 16%
Higher-Income Families
Total Expenses 23%

Childcare costs are a large expense for many parents. Childcare includes things like daycare, babysitting services, and nanny care. These costs can vary dramatically depending on where you live and the childcare you choose. 

For example, child care in 2021 for one child costs an average of $340 per week. If you’re interested in hiring a full-time nanny, you’ll be looking at an average of $612 a week.

Families with one parent staying at home don’t have these expenses, but they’re still worth noting. The childcare costs are one of the major reasons why it’s an excellent idea for stay-at-home parents to have life insurance policies. 

Those costs are expenses that would suddenly need to be covered if the stay-at-home parent were to pass away. So having a policy in place that covers child costs is a smart way to guarantee they’ll never be a burden.

Medical Expenses

Families of all income levels
Total Expenses 9%

It’s no secret that medical expenses can add up quickly. Even with a health insurance policy, costs such as monthly premiums, deductibles, and copayments often add up to be a large portion of the cost of raising a child.

Some of this expense is the cost of insurance itself. Plans that cover more than one person, such as a family, will generally have higher premiums. Similarly, more people means you’re likely to use your insurance more. This means you’ll have more doctor visits, more prescriptions, and more medical services to pay for.

Medical costs go beyond annual check-ups and antibiotics. Children often have additional medical expenses such as glasses, dental work, or braces. Even one of these extra expenses can increase your medical costs significantly. For example, braces alone cost an average of between $3,000 and $7,000.

Based on the USDA study, medical expenses accounted for 8-9 of the cost to raise a child across all three income groups. Costs consisted of medical and dental services not covered by insurance, prescription drugs and medical supplies not covered by insurance, and health insurance premiums not paid by an employer or other organization. Medical services include those related to physical and mental health. 

Children with high medical needs

All of these numbers are based on children who are in good health and who don’t need extensive medical, behavioral, or mental health services. Having a child with an acute illness, chronic illness, special needs, or other medical needs can drive up your costs exponentially.

You might have additional costs such as:

  • Home medical equipment
  • Specialized medication
  • Medical treatments
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility aids
  • Physical and occupational therapy services
  • Speech therapy services
  • Personal care assistance

It’s also important to note that the cost of raising a child with a medical need does not always stop at 18. You might need to plan for years of continual care, especially if your child cannot live independently. A financial planner can help you budget for the future if you have a child with a high medical need.

Micellaneous Expenses

Families of all income levels
Total Expenses 9%

There are many other expenses that factor into your total cost of raising a child. Some of these costs are optional, but others are basic necessities. Your costs will depend on your budget, lifestyle, and the choices you make for your child.

Common additional costs include:

  • Toothpaste, shampoo, and other personal care supplies
  • Electronics
  • Sports, dance, theater, or other activities
  • Sports equipment, toys, and gifts
  • Birthday parties and holiday celebrations

Families of all income levels accounted for 6-9% of the total expenses to raise a child came from miscellaneous expenses.

Cost of Raising a Child by Region

Where you live can make a big impact on the total expense of raising a child. Therefore, areas with an overall higher cost of living will also be more expensive places to raise a child.

For example, the United States Department of Agriculture reports families in the District of Columbia spend an average of $29,000 a year on raising a child. In contrast, families in Mississippi spend an average of $13,000.

You can check out the average costs in your region using the chart below.

Family Income StatusUrban NortheastUrban WestUrban SouthUrban MidwestRural Areas
Low-Income Families:$204,840 $186,270 $175,290$169,920 $146,310
Middle-Income Families:$264,090$245,460$232,050 $227,400$193,020
High-Income Families:$407,490$387,810$366,360$363,000$280,080

Cost of Raising a Child by Age and Family Size

The cost of raising a child isn’t the same every year of that child’s life. In general, children cost more the older they get. Older children tend to have higher nutritional and educational expenses than younger children. Of course, as is the case with other costs, the decisions your family makes will play a prominent role in these numbers. 

For instance, the average cost of raising teenagers accounts for food, clothing, education, and transportation. However, let’s say your teenager attends public school, works a part-time job, and does not have their own car or driver’s license.

While the cost of food will likely still be higher than buying for a toddler, the teenager in this scenario could contribute to the cost of clothing and other expenses. Conversely, a toddler being cared for by a nanny would have substantially higher yearly expenses than average.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture 2015 study, the average annual cost increases at an average inflation rate of 2.2 percent each age as shown in the below chart:

YearAgeLow-IncomeMiddle-IncomeHigh-Income
2015<1$9,690$12,680$19,770
20161$9,910$12,960$19,770
20172$10,130$13,250$20,660
20183$10,360$13,600$21,140
20194$10,590$13,900$21,620
20205$10,830$14,210$22,100
20216$10,650$14,100$22,120
20227$10,890$14,410$22,620
20238$11,130$14,730$23,120
20249$12,150$16,070$25,250
202510$12,420$16,430$25,810
202611$12,690$16,800$26,380
202712$12,470$16,980$27,430
202813$12,750$17,360$28,040
202914$13,030$17,740$28,660
203015$13,890$17,740$28,660
203116$14,200$19,780$33,270
203217$14,520$20,220$34,020
Total$212,300$284,570$454,770

The cost of raising multiple children

What happens if you have multiple children? Do all these numbers double or triple? You will add expenses with each child, but some of the costs associated with raising a child will likely already be part of your budget.

For instance, let’s say you’re having a second child. If you’re not planning to move out of your current home, you won’t see a drastic jump in your housing costs. You might have slightly higher utilities, or need some new furniture, but it won’t be a sharp increase.

On average, it costs about 1.6 times the amount to raise two children a year as it does raise one child. It’s about 1.2 times more expensive a year to raise three children than it is to raise two. Again, your costs can vary depending on the choices you make for your family.

The Cost of Raising Children and Life Insurance

One of the essential parts of a financial plan is a good life insurance policy. For parents who are buying life insurance, the cost of raising their child or children is a substantial consideration.

As a parent, your children can all influence the policy type, term length, and benefit amount of your policy. For instance, if you have very young children you want to ensure are covered until they finish college, you’ll want a policy with at least a 20-year term.

If you have a child with high medical needs who might need lifelong care, you might want to consider a universal or whole life policy instead of a term life policy.

Important life insurance policy considerations when you have children include:

  • If you want to include the cost of college tuition in your policy benefit.
  • If your want to cover your children until they are 18, 22, or fully finally independent.
  • If you want to make sure there is money set aside for private school, personal cars, or other optional expenses.
  • If you want your policy to completely pay off your current mortgage to ensure your child or children always have housing.
  • If you have a child who might need medical treatments or  full-time supportive care in the future.
  • If you plan to have more children.

You might not know the answers to all of these questions when you buy a policy, but starting to think about them can help you determine the right policy and benefit amount for your family.

After all, a life insurance policy isn’t designed to help you predict the future. Instead, it’s designed to help you protect your family from situations you can’t predict. That’s why it’s a great idea to include as many variables as possible when you’re determining the policy for your family.

That doesn’t mean you should go over your budget and buy a policy you can’t afford, but it does mean it’s worth looking at your financial plan closely. It’s best to start by figuring out the right policy size for your family. From there, you can start shopping around for policies. You might be surprised by how affordable even large policies can be.

Final Thought

Raising children is expensive at all income levels. Years of medical costs, food, clothing, housing, and more add up to be well over six figures for most families. Your circumstances, budget, and the choices your family makes can substantially increase or decrease the cost of raising your child. 

No matter what your total child-raising expenses are, it’s important to factor them into your life insurance policy. If you’re ready to start shopping for policies that meet your families needs, let No Medical Exam Quotes help.

You can fill out our quick form to get no-obligation quotes from the top no exam life insurance companies. It’s an easy process you can start right now from the comfort of your home. Plus, if you choose to purchase a policy from any of the great companies we work with, you won’t have to worry about taking a medical exam for coverage.

Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola is the founder of No Medical Exam Quotes, an online insurance broker with a strong focus on helping people shop for the perfect life insurance policy. Jeffrey is both a licensed life insurance expert and content creator for the website. Before becoming a licensed life insurance agent, he served in the United States Marine Corps. He transitioned from serving his country to helping families find affordable life insurance coverage since 2009. No Medical Exam Quotes is licensed to offer life insurance coverage in all 50 U.S. States.

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