Lion of the Blogosphere

Why does it cost so much to raise kids?

Jayman pointed me to an Atlantic article comparing the cost of raising kids in 1960 to 2011.

My interpretation is that children are actually quite inexpensive to raise if you just account for food and clothing for them. This assumes that there’s a woman at home who wouldn’t otherwise be working, you send them to public schools, you don’t spend money on summer camp, expensive after-school activities. And you already have the space in the house for them.

Healthcare has gone up in price a lot, but according to the pie chart, it has only gone up from 4% to 8% of the cost of raising a child.

Raising a child becomes extremely expensive if you have to pay for childcare, live in an expensive city like New York where space is at a huge premium, or if you believe that you need to send them to private school or expensive after-school activities and summer camp.

This explains why prole whites living in white parts of the country can afford to churn out big families. Space is cheap out there, they have public schools, and they aren’t in a status competition to send their kids to the most expensive activities. They can buy their kids clothes from Walmart because all of their kids’ peers also are wearing Walmart clothes.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Posted in Economics

29 Responses

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  1. For anyone interested in such things, Jonathan V Last talks about this in his book, What To Expect When No One’s Expecting. Cost of living has a significant relationship with fertility levels. Moreso than government support for parenthood (ie free pre-K, paid maternity leave, etc.). Of course, there are a lot of other factors at play, too.


    August 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM

  2. This has been my experience. The diapers and the baby food are easily afforded and amount to maybe a couple hundred bucks a month. Daycare in suburban DC is 2 grand a month, per child.


    August 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    • 2 times a month, each, cripes self actualization has a lot of overhead

      Monroe Ficus

      August 27, 2013 at 1:22 PM

  3. Elizabeth Warren’s book The Two Income Trap is a very detailed analysis of this. She basically says that housing (mortgage), childcare, schooling, and healthcare account for pretty much all of the cost of living increase of the last few decades. Despite all of the detailed research, though, she ultimately takes the blue pill route and fails to draw any meaningful inferences about what this says about society, opting instead to conclude “the government should do more to help provide this stuff.”

    Jokah Macpherson

    August 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM

  4. It’s also funny that the article lists “lack of prejudice” as a highest level need. I don’t recall ever losing much sleep over being too prejudiced compared to wondering whether my work was meaningful or not.

    Jokah Macpherson

    August 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM

  5. Then once they get to be teenagers, how much do you need to spend to help them compete in their cohort’s social games? They need a car, but they can’t be expected to help pay for it, because low-wage teen jobs are not college-application-approved “enrichment.”


    August 27, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    • It harms your kid’s future to let him work a minimum wage job so he can own a crappy car. He should be studying and be involved in college-application-enhancing extracurriculars, and not be wasting his time at a crappy useless job.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 27, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      • Yep. Plus a lot of unprotected sex happens in a teen’s car. Not to mention the dangers of excessive speeding and driving while impaired. These activities can seriously derail one’s college career.

        E. Rekshun

        August 27, 2013 at 6:14 PM

      • @E. Rekshun

        You missed the point. The parents should be providing the car.


        August 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM

  6. Correct as usual king friday. If there’s a dedicated stay at home mom (or dad) who can cook, the only heavy costs are private school (or a hefty mortgage for a home zoned for “good schools”) and whatever isn’t covered by health insurance (assuming you’re insured, which everyone will have to be soon), like co-pays, prescriptions, dental & orthodontics. Although whites aren’t churning out large families; the white birthrate is below replacement level in the US.


    August 27, 2013 at 1:19 PM

  7. Granted, I didn’t read the article, only looked at the chart, but wouldn’t the large increase in childcare simply be from the fact that most mothers didn’t work in 1960 and thus there was no daycare. Wouldn’t the real point of the article be that parents now need two workers to live the life that used to be created by one worker?

    Also, I”m surprised that the housing costs didn’t increase. Most white families at least must pay through the nose for a house so that they can live in a neighborhood that prices out NAMs. Maybe that doesn’t show up because it only impact middle and upper-middle class families living suburbs of large cities. Perhaps NAMs and rural whites don’t need to spent any more on housing than they did in the 1960s.

    I wonder what those charts would look like if you compared only white families, particularly white middle and upper-middle class families.


    August 27, 2013 at 1:22 PM

  8. My experience has been this: My wife and i have spent about 50k per year for our 2 kids. this doesn’t count college they aren’t college age yet. my figures are compared to what we spent before we had kids. of course, if we were childless we might have decided to live it up a little.

    daycare till age 5 (then after school care) – costs ranged from 26k a year at the worst to 4k now.
    food, 7k a year.
    clothes, toys, video games, sports equipment, braces, etc. – about 2k a year
    second car (minivan) 5k
    health care expenses 4k
    piano lessons, summer camps, sports, art classes, tutors, etc. 8k
    bigger, more expensive house in a better school district 8k
    travel costs twice as much 3-5k
    plus kids destroy things – my carpets, furniture, appliances don’t last nearly as long as before! 1k
    there’s also indirect costs – we are so much more exhausted that we eat out a lot more and hire out things we did ourselves before – home repairs, landscaping, cleaning, etc. 5k
    utility bills twice as much – 2k
    max cable bill – my son watches a lot of sports 1k
    extra cell phones 1k
    i’m sure i left some expenses out, but you get the idea. of course as lion says you CAN raise kids cheaper, but this is i think typical for a 2 income upper middle class family where i live (midwest college town). and my kids are in public schools, if you added in private schools, your expenses would be up to 80-90k a year.


    August 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    • A lot of this is from being a spend-thrift. Believe it or not, you can raise children on a lot less.


      August 28, 2013 at 12:09 PM

  9. Catholic schools often give deep discounts if you have two or more kids in the school, this rewards large families at the expense of single child families.


    August 27, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    • It depends on the school. We spend $13k for four children which represents a 7k sibling discount. The next step up (yes, there is a tier system in the archdiocese) is 8-10k per student with maybe a 1k discount after the first. There are a handful of parochial schools charging on par with the lower tier secular private schools, around 25k per child. There are no or limited discounts for high school, at least within the NY archdiocese. High school runs 8-15k on average per student. Our high school bill is 20k for 2 teenagers. So while yes, you get a discount, we’re still paying 33k in tuition which isn’t going to be encouraging for most prospective parents looking to add to their brood. Very few non-hispanic catholics have large families these days, anyway, and those who do tend to be far right traditionalists who gravitate toward homeschooling.

      It could be a chicken-egg situation that as catholic family size shrunk, the schools were forced to raise tuition to keep the institutions running. To put this in perspective, the school my younger ones attend has a graduating 8th grade class portrait from 1953 on the wall, with more than 100 students pictured. Today, the entire school has around 200 students. Also schools are run by salaried laypeople and not nuns.


      August 27, 2013 at 9:30 PM

  10. If you have an only child then summer camp and whatnot are more important.


    August 27, 2013 at 3:12 PM

  11. Raising a child is only expensive if you work for your money. If you want a large family, you should go on welfare so that each child is a source of income.

    Blog Raju

    August 27, 2013 at 5:03 PM

  12. LotB: “Raising a child becomes extremely expensive if you…believe that you need to send them to private school…”

    Hhhmmm; why would one believe that?

    E. Rekshun

    August 27, 2013 at 6:08 PM

  13. Housing is expensive in the good suburbs without a bunch of poor NAM kids. In Connecticut, the difference in housing prices between Norwalk and Darien is pretty high, or Ridgefield-Danbury even. Difference is the “good schools”, which really means no poor kids.

    Another thing that drives up cost of schooling in the aggregate is special ed. Special ed is a huge expense in some districts. The districts do the best to hide the true costs, but some districts will spend 20% of the budget for the most unable 2% of kids.


    August 27, 2013 at 8:13 PM

  14. Daycare is disgusting.

    Putative female hypergamy should mean no single mothers or mothers who have to work.

    Hugh Lygon

    August 27, 2013 at 9:00 PM

  15. Does schools nowadays offer vouchers for kids in certain districts? This might offset some of the cost of parochial or private school if you’re stretching resources to get your kids into a decent school. The decent public schools in any area is going to be in high priced areas, so it’s not so much a choice, but a financial reality that you’ll want a small number of kids in order give them at least a decent opportunity for success. The NYT did an article about parents planning for precisely this kind of thing when deciding on which zip code they were going to live in. Some opted for areas where gentrification were in the earlier stages of development hoping that when their children are grown, the local public schools would have improved enough to make it apart of a sought after zip/school.

    I personally would feel bad for my children if they were surrounded by a bunch of low impulse control misfits, not to mention the social opportunities they’ll miss out on by being part of a messed up public school system. Most of the ‘educators’ at the low performing schools are nothing more than public childcare for a lot of the parents. I’ve read somewhere that public education has improved somewhat since I went through it, but it’s no where near where it ought to be in terms of quality. Add to that the budget woes a lot of public school districts are under, and you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of managing the precious resource at your disposal to give your kids a decent chance at life.

    It’s no wonder most educated people decide on small families or choose not to have children at all nowadays.


    August 27, 2013 at 10:30 PM

  16. But if you live in a non-rich area, send your kids to public school, don’t tutor them, and don’t send them to an expensive college… What did you end up raising (the proper word is “rearing” but large prole families seem more like “raising” to me, as in livestock)?

    You’re just preparing your kids for middle-class jobs and lifestyles that don’t exist anymore. Maybe a genetically gifted really smart kid _might_ be ok but otherwise, what are they going to do in the modern hypercompetitive globalized winner-take-all society? Go for the top or not at all. Anything else seems like cruelty to the poor little ones. Also, homeschooling doesn’t strike me as cheap, either. Need at least one smart, educated stay-at-home parent whose opportunity cost of not working must be high, plus outside tutoring and so on.

    But nothing in the US is competitive like it is here in East Asia. Holy crap. Singapore now introduced classes for _parents_ to train their kids for the critical Primary School Leaving Exam. For poorer parents, obviously, because rich ones already know what to do and have been tutoring their kids personally and with tutors since age 1 or something. Because that exam sets their fate in stone at age 11-12. Combined with the cost of living, no wonder the birth rate here is so low.


    August 27, 2013 at 10:44 PM

  17. I think my parents resent me for being a 26 year old barista after they’ve invested so much in my education / development.


    August 28, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    • I would be mad as hell at somebody.

      The Anti-Gnostic

      August 28, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    • Did you study something not very marketable? Or has the “Great Recession” stalled your career? It’s not too late for you to learn a trade. One field that seems to go unnoticed, is working for a city or private water system. Sometimes, one can get hired w/o specific experience and learn the field and get the certifications on the job. Even use the employer’s tuition benefits to get a college degree. Starting salaries aren’t great and depend on the location, but good job security, benefits, and promotional opportunity. Water systems run 24/7/365 and need workers around the clock.

      I know a few folks that started a job like this right out of high school. Thirty years later, they’re retiring on decent city pensions at 48 years of age.

      E. Rekshun

      August 29, 2013 at 6:48 AM

      • Trades are seen passé for most of the younger generation. It’s low status and prole. Gen Y have better things to do. Old boomer farts still dominate the trades and will be working till 80.


        August 29, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      • I graduated in 2010 with an accounting degree. Before the recession hit, I was always able to get decent summer jobs in construction and warehousing. Now even those places won’t hire me.

        Thanks for the advice. I’ll look into it.


        August 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

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