Lifetime Cost of Raising a Child

Here on Everything Finance, there have been a handful of articles on saving money on children, and a few have also warned potential parents- to-be that they should be financially secure before trying to conceive. While we all know that raising children is an expensive undertaking, I propose that all couples should not only think carefully about when they will have children so much as questioning if they will have children in the first place. Of course, no one can discount the rich rewards that parenting promises. After all, we homo sapiens are strongly programmed to procreate and extend our lineage. But in the uncertain economic times in which we now live, when not only financial markets but even the very nature of our ecosystem is in serious crisis, we should seriously reconsider whether or not having children is the best idea.

Like all major decisions, we should submit raising children to a rigorous, long-term cost-benefit analysis. This means not only taking into account considerations like how much we’ll be spending on diapers, but we should also investigate both hidden and overt costs of raising children in the long term. According to a 2009 study published by the USDA’s Center for Nutritional Policy and Promotion, the lifetime cost of raising a child in a milddle-income family is 22% higher now than it was in 1960. For a family of two, the average now spent on raising a child till she is 17 years old is a whopping $286,050. This figure represents only the costs of raising a single child. This figure also does not include the most substantial cost a parent will pay after her child is no longer a minor the cost of a college education.

The figure released by the USDA also does not take into account opportunity costs. Many new parents, particularly mothers, will either bow out of the job market completely or will switch to work which is more flexible, but less well-paid. This trend will is particularly marked in the first few years of a child’s life, meaning parents can stand to lose hundreds of thousands more.

Of course, it is somewhat unreasonable to think of having children only in financial terms. The joy of raising children may very well outweigh the costs that children incur. At the same time, there is also a case to be made for waiting several years before having children (effectively reducing the opportunity costs mentioned above), giving parents time to save and invest. What’s more, older parents tend to be significantly wiser and more mature, enabling them to reap the greatest benefits from the parenting process.

If we take into account another more far-reaching cost the larger ecological cost that one American person represents then there is again, a significant case to be made for either not having children at all or, on the other hand, adopting children. Considering that the average carbon footprint of even the most environmentally-minded American is twice that of other countries, we, as citizens of a global community, would be doing the Earth a favor by having one less person to generate incredible amounts of waste and place even more pressure on increasingly rarer resources. Adopting children thousands of which are destined to a life of poverty if not given homes become a much more efficient use of already existing resources.

As has been shown, planning children is not just a matter of being emotionally ready, of simply listening and paying heed to the proverbial biological clock. In our day and age, deciding to have children could be one of the most costly decisions we will ever make. Ask yourself seriously if you are ready to bear this cost.

Raine Parker, regularly writes on the topics of accounting degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: