How Much Does it Cost To Raise a Child? Parenthood’s Shocking Pricetag

Many would-be-parents put their plans on hold, worried they can’t afford to raise a child. 

Naysayers scream that no one is ever ready to parent, and they’ll figure things out once the child arrives. Some also roll their eyes and claim it’s “not that expensive.”

Who’s right? How much does it cost to raise a child? Is parenthood still affordable for most families?

We did the math to find out. 

How Much Does it Cost To Raise a Child?

According to reported studies, it costs over $300,000 to raise a child from infancy to adulthood, and that doesn’t even include college. 

The Brookings Institution adjusted a 2015 study by the Department of Agriculture for inflation to showcase how the cost of parenthood continues to rise. The 2015 study provided the oft-cited data that it takes $233,610 to raise a child, but the Brookings Institution showcased that people entering parenthood in the 2020s can expect to pay far more. It used a 4% inflation rate to discover that someone with a child in 2015 can expect to pay $310,605, but even that number is shockingly low. 

We did some math to discover the true cost of raising a child, and it’s closer to $440000. 

Most of the cost goes to childcare, food, housing, and transportation. 


The USDA study claimed that 16% of the cost of raising a child goes to childcare and education, which amounts to a little less than $50,000. 

However, the cost varies widely by state

Parents in Alabama can expect to pay approximately $6,000 per year, while California parents pay a whopping $11,475. Assuming parents pay for childcare until the kids reach kindergarten (at about six years old), Alabama parents will pay approximately $36,000, while California parents will pay $68,850. 

Of course, childcare doesn’t end in Kindergarten. 

Child development experts typically agree that kids should have constant supervision until they reach ages 11-12, meaning parents can expect to fork over even more money for after-school and summer care programs if they want to maintain their careers. 

After-school care programs cost approximately $10,500 per year, assuming one child and a 36-week school year, and summer care programs cost about $4608 annually. 

Parents with kids ages 7-11 spend $15,108 per year on childcare, which adds up to $75,540 for the five years this type of care is required. 

These two numbers put the true cost of childcare far above the reported $50,000, even for the most affordable states. Parents in Alabama will pay $110,540 for total childcare, while those in California will pay $144,390.

Total average childcare costs: $127,465

Additional Childcare Options

Not every family pays for childcare, which likely skews the research data lower. Some parents rely on grandparents to watch the children during the workweek, a luxury many families don’t have. 

Others see the cost of childcare and decide it’s more affordable if someone stays home, but they don’t consider the opportunity costs that affect stay-at-home parents. 

How Stay At Home Parents Lose Out

Many families can’t afford childcare, so they opt to have someone stay home. This decision affects far more than childcare costs. 

A stay-at-home parent can expect lower lifetime earnings, so they will lose out when it’s time to collect social security. In addition, they won’t have the opportunity to save on their own for retirement, a huge risk considering social security only covers about 40% of your income. 

However, there’s a lot more at stake. The years outside the workforce make it harder to move up in a career. The resume gap will make it difficult to find high-paying jobs, create a skill deficiency, and reduce the ability to make up the income gap. 

Flexible Work for Parenthood

Many parents opt for flexible jobs with shorter hours to limit the money they spend on after-school care programs and summer camps. However, these parents also sacrifice their total lifetime earnings, career opportunities, and financial security in retirement. 

No matter what parents choose, they lose unless they have someone who will provide free childcare. 

Childcare and opportunity costs are only one small part of the total cost of parenthood. 

Hospital Bills for Pregnancy and Childbirth

When discussing how much it costs to raise a child, we must account for the costs of pregnancy and childbirth. 

Without insurance, the average cost for delivery is a little over $13,000. Insurance plans vary wildly. Parents can pay as little as $500 or as much as $8000, depending on their state and healthcare plan. 

Those costs don’t account for prenatal care or pregnancy and childbirth complications. 

The total cost of prenatal care, birth, and postpartum care amounts to nearly $19,000, but those with insurance can expect to pay about $3000 out of pocket. Those with complications needing a C-Section pay more than those who deliver naturally, with the former costing approximately $26,000 in healthcare costs and the latter costing about $14,000. Insurance generally covers most of these. 

Total average pregnancy and childbirth cost: $3000

The Hidden Cost of Pregnancy

None of these costs account for the toll pregnancy takes on a woman’s body. Women sacrifice their bodies for nine months to bring children into the world, facing everything from morning sickness to pregestational diabetes. They’re always tired, making work harder, and often face discrimination

Hospital Bills for Children

Kids get sick. They do silly things and break bones. 

Parents with health insurance typically add their kids to their existing plans, but that’s not free. 

According to the Healthcare Costs Institute, the average per-person spending on healthcare for a person under 18 was $2,966 per year in 2020. This included insurance premiums, copays, doctor visits, and prescription drug costs. 

On average, parents will spend approximately $50,000 on healthcare for children from birth through age 17. 

Total average healthcare costs: $50,000


Kids need to eat. The USDA study claimed food takes 18% of the total child-raising budget, which amounts to an annual average cost of $3100. 

Baby food is notoriously expensive, but women who opt to breastfeed can avoid some of those costs. However, breastfeeding comes with opportunity costs, such as needing flexibility at work and discrimination. 

The $3100 number also came from the Brookings Institute Study published in 2022. Food prices increased by 5.8% in 2023, meaning the actual cost is closer to $3300 per year and continues to rise yearly. 

Total Average Food Costs: $56100


The studio apartment will no longer cut it when you have children. Growing families need extra space for baby supplies and for kids to have privacy as they age. 

Although it’s impossible to determine exactly how much children add to housing costs, we can infer averages based on related data. 

The USDA study claimed that 29% of a parent’s child-raising budget goes to housing. The study assumed that parents mostly live in houses and would add extra bedrooms for extra children. The 29% came from an analysis of how much it costs to add additional bedrooms in homes. However, the data was collected in 2015, before the massive inflation of housing costs.

In today’s world, many parents can’t afford to buy. They’re forced to rent, but they still upgrade bedrooms. In 2023, a two-bedroom apartment will cost about $200 more than a one-bedroom apartment. 

Those who still dream of raising their children in a home they own can expect to pay far more. The average cost difference between renting and owning in 2023 is $852 monthly. 

Assuming half the parents are forced to rent and half upgrade to homeownership, on average, parents can expect to spend an extra $526 per month housing their kids. 

These costs don’t account for the extra utility bills needed to cover the larger space. On average, upgrading from one to two bedrooms costs an extra $68 per month or $816 per year. 

Total Average Housing Cost: $121176


The USDA study allocated 15% of the total cost of rearing a child to transportation, which amounts to about $46500 with inflation-adjusted numbers. 

However, the methodology leaves much to be desired. Researchers assumed 75% of transportation costs were related to family activities (rather than employment). Then, they split the price in half, assigning a portion to the parents and the kids. 

While kids add extra transportation burdens as they must go to school and extracurriculars, parents would travel to grocery stores, friends’ houses, and dinners out, whether they have kids or not. They’d also still take vacations and road trips. 

Determining the added cost kids create regarding transportation is impossible, so we will use the USDA’s numbers despite the inaccuracy. 

Total Average Transportation Cost: $46,500


Constantly growing children always need new shoes and clothes. Thankfully, numerous stores offer low-cost children’s clothing options. 

The USDA study found that clothing only amounts to 6% of the total cost of raising a child. 

Total Average Clothing Cost: $18600


Many childrearing expenses don’t fall neatly into other categories. Kids need school supplies, sporting equipment, and fees for extracurriculars. They also join their families on vacations, get special treats on outings, and collect toys and games. 

Parents can expect to pay about $21700 for these extra costs. 

Total Average Miscellaneous Expenses: $21700

How Much Does it Cost To Raise a Child?

The average cost to raise a child in 2024 is a whopping $444541, which will only grow each year. 

Of course, averages don’t tell the whole story. The true cost depends greatly on where you live, the help you have along the way, and what other sacrifices you’re willing to make for parenthood. 

Families opting for a stay-at-home parent will pay less for childcare but more for opportunity costs. Mothers without insurance will pay far more in pregnancy and childbirth. Parents in a low-cost-of-living area will pay far less in housing but may lack career opportunities. 

Each family must weigh the costs and benefits of all their options before deciding how to manage the expenses. 

Adding College To The Mix

Our $444541 figure doesn’t even include college. It only accounts for raising kids for the first 17 years of their life. 

Parents who want to help their kids pay for college should start saving as soon as possible. The average cost of attending an in-state public college hovers around $29000. Private universities and out-of-state colleges cost far more. 

Helping Into Adulthood

Most parents won’t kick their kids out the second they turn 18. Nearly half of all young adults ages 18-29 live with family members, meaning parents foot the bill long after the 18th birthday. 

Even kids who live on their own receive parental help. Nearly 60% of all parents helped their adult children financially in the past year. Parents pay cell phone bills, keep the kids on their insurance plans, and help with food and rent. 

The True Cost of Raising a Child

Naysayers take note. Having children is a massive financial burden for parents far exceeding the reported $444541 price tag. 

It’s no wonder more and more young people have decided they don’t want to have kids. They can’t afford it. 


Author: Melanie Allen

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pursuing Your Passions, Travel, Wellness, Hobbies, Finance, Gaming, Happiness

Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation and is a certified happiness life coach. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life. 

9 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost To Raise a Child? Parenthood’s Shocking Pricetag”

  1. I disagree, my three millennial kids cost us very little. They all had free rides through college academically through scholarships, room and board included in spite of my being a high earner and my wife chose to be a stay at home mom which didn’t cost us because, again, I was the high earner. They were awesome kids, still are, with six degrees among them. They support themselves completely and nobody lives in our basement.

    • Its great to hear that having kids won’t have to cost an arm and a leg! I’m going to try to be frugal about it!

      • I agree that the costs in these studies seem really inflated. Sure, it’s a big obligation, but it’s more of a wonderful life decision than a cost decision. My three are adults now and still the bedrock of my life.

  2. I agree! As a single mama of 3, I struggle to make sure they are completely provided for. I tell them all the time, we may not be rich in money, but we are rich in love and that’s all that matters <3

  3. I completely agree with the above. As a future parent, I’m always mentally struggling with these ideas. However, there’s one funny detail — I read a study that indicated that kids who had only four toys around (in the room where they were for this study) concentrated much more on each toy than the kids who had more toys around. Pretty intuitive, right? But to me, it’s a great excuse to not buy kids a lot of toys. They can entertain themselves with very little if given the chance 🙂

    • I agree. I remember when I was little I was way more interested in the box than the toy itself hahaha. I don’t think kids need a lot of toys, but I also don’t think toys are the leading expense. Daycare, education, and healthcare are probably at the top of the list, followed by day to day necessities (diapers, clothing, formula, etc). Parenthood is expensive

      • Yes, healthcare if definitely up there. I think education is trickier to calculate. Since school districts tend to drive up housing costs, I see families near me sending their kids to public school for (ostensibly) not much money at all, but then having to pay through the nose for housing. It’s unfortunate — I wish education were a lot more equitable here in the U.S.

        • Yeah, some public schools are cheaper, unfortunately they can be lower quality. Higher education is incredibly expensive though.

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