Raising a Middle-Class Child Will Likely Cost Almost $286,000, According to USDA Data

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala / Getty

Raising children is expensive in the United States, and families are feeling the pressure.

More than 12.5 million children in the U.S. live in poverty. Even middle-class families are increasingly struggling to pay for everyday expenses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a report using 2015 data that estimated expenses of child rearing from birth through age 17 in a middle-income family of two adults and two children is $233,610. With inflation, that number translates to almost $286,000 in 2022.

But adjusting for inflation may not be enough. Child care costs have actually outpaced inflation.

In 2020, child care expenses rose 5.03% year over year compared to the annual inflation rate of just 1.2% at the time.

"The fact is that sending an infant to day care in many places across the country could be significantly more expensive than in-state public tuition to send them to college," said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

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"The United States has just been very reluctant, very conservative, when it comes to these kinds of family policies," said Shawn Fremstad, senior fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

"One of the issues with child care in the U.S. is it's a patchwork system," said Lauren Bauer, an economic studies fellow at Brookings Institution. "We have programs that fully subsidized for eligible children. ... We have tax credits that subsidize a portion of child care costs for higher-income families. We also have block grants to states to help them expand access. The problem with all of these systems is that, with this multitude of approaches, we're not getting close to universality or affordability."

Watch the video above to learn why it's so expensive to raise children in the U.S., with an explanation of some of the policies the federal government could implement to help families struggling to make ends meet.

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