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How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child?

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Thinking of having a kid, but not sure you can afford it? To raise a child, you'll need a few hundred thousand dollars of disposable income over the course of the next 17 years.

To help parents calculate the costs of child-rearing, the United States Department of Agriculture publishes an annual report that estimates the average yearly expenses of children, based on surveys of thousands of parents across the country. The latest USDA report, published in May 2011, found that child-rearing costs between $11,880 and $13,830 per year for each child in a four-member, middle-income family. The low end of that range is the annual cost of younger children while the high end is the cost of older children, up to 17 years old.

Naturally, lower income parents spend less per child, while wealthy parents spend much more. In two-parent, two-child households with a total annual income less than $57,600, between $8,480 and $9,630 is spent on each child, on average. Meanwhile, in four-member households with a total income greater than $99,730, expenses for each child range between $19,770 and $23,690.

Parents tend to spend slightly more when they have an "only child," and slightly less per child when they have three or more children. Single parents spend less per child, on average, than married-couple parents.

The USDA report also estimated the total future cost of a child born that year, adjusting for an average annual inflation of 2.6 percent. According to the report, middle-income parents can expect to spend a total of $286,860 raising a child through age 17 who was born in 2010. Meanwhile, total family expenses on a child through age 17 would be $206,180 for the lowest income group, and $477,100 for the highest income group.

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Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.