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Children = Debt Trap

Since the beginning of time, people have had children to pass down their genes and ultimately their legacy. Society places a high value on families because it is seen as making it in life. But, how much does it really cost to have a living legacy?

The USDA did a study back in 2015 on the cost of raising a child and the conclusion was for an average middle class family, the cost of raising a child from ages 0-17 was close to a quarter of a million dollars. 

Let that sink in…

Average Cost of Raising 1 child (according to USDA) 

Source: USDA

Of course, the cost of raising a child can vary as shown in the info graphic above, but even on the lower end, it still ends up being close to $200,000. This is all before we account for college which if you’ve read our other articles (Is College Really Worth It and Student loans; Uncle Sam’s Mirage), that’s a a debt trap that we do not recommend.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is a simple opportunity cost question. Does raising a child give you the equivalent of $233,000 plus 17 years of childcare’s worth of joy.

I know for myself that’s a definite no as I can think of a lot of other ways to spend $233,000 and use the time that would have otherwise been spent on raising a child. Of course, some people including yourself might get an infinite amount of joy from having a child and in that case, it is definitely worth it.

So, is there any way to decrease the cost of raising a child?


Super Budget Cost of Raising 1 child (AKA the McDonalds method)

Home Birth: $2,000 for the mid-wife

Poor mans diet: $10/day or $3,650/year or $62,050 over 17 years *There’s plenty of discounted relatively healthy food at walmart and other chains

Clothing: $100/year or $1,700 over 17 years *Using Goodwill/ donated items 

Housing (and utilities): $50/month or $600/year or $10,200 over 17 years * Assume child never gets their own room so you don’t have to “upgrade” home

School: Public school – $0 *Your taxes already cover it 

Transportation: $0 *Your child can walk or carpool with other kids

Entertainment: $0 *Use public resources like library, park, etc

Total over 17 years (and forget college): $75,950

Not too shabby right? Of course, we are assuming your child will not have many “things” to grow up with such as a phone, toys and other things. If you’re on a farm or living the simple life, this strategy shouldn’t be too bad and. There of course always miscellaneous expenses that crop up so this should only be a guideline of what the low end cost of raising a child is.

What’s with all the interest in children?

Economics and birth rates are pretty closely linked. The economy grows as population grows which makes sense because there is a larger labor pool that increases over time. There has been a serious decline in births in many developed countries. This has led to the lost decade in Japan and with US birth rates declining as well, this may be something that needs to be thought about.

The question of why birth rates are declining then naturally comes up and one of the most obvious reasons is the cost of raising a child in current times. As we mentioned in this article, the cost or raising a child over 17 years is close to $250,000. That is crazy considering what you can do with that money. Even on the low end with our conservative estimates of close to $75,000, that is still a chunk of change. There is no question that people are questioning the financial viability of having children now and this may have further implications to our economy down the road.

So, the next time the figures for raising a child get adjusted, pay close attention to whether they have gone up or down. Costs going up could signal slowing economic growth.

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