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How Much Money Do Parents Spend on Their Kids During Their Lifetime?

by Erica Loop, studioD

Of the many challenges that parenting presents, money spent over the course of the childrearing years is often at the top of the list. From the dollars for diapers and wipes that seem to pile up during the early years to educational expenses, leisure time activities and other costs that relate to an older child, the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- in its 2011 report titled, "Expenditures on Children by Families" -- notes that parents will spend an estimated $169,080 to $389,670 from birth through age 17.

Income Level

Not all parents will spend the same amount on their children over the course of a lifetime. Whether you are looking at the annual costs, estimated money that a parent will spend on a child until age 17 or breaking it down into categories of expenses, lower income families will spend less. For example, the USDA notes that the yearly childrearing cost for parents who make below $59,410 is between $8,760 and $9,970. Families who earn between $59,410 and $102,870 spend between $12,420 and $14,320, and those in the highest income bracket spend anywhere from $20,420 to $24,510.

Biggest Expense

According to the USDA's 2011 report on how families spend money on child-related expenses, the number one cost is housing. Parents from all income levels report that housing is the top expenditure when it comes to total yearly child-related expenses. Parents in the lowest and highest income groups say that 32 percent of their child-related expenses fall into the housing category, while the figures are almost equal -- at 30 percent -- for middle income parents. Housing, as the USDA defines it, includes the money spent on actual shelter such as mortgage or rent, along with property taxes, repairs, general maintenance, utility bills and furnishings.


Your child's education is a primary factor in his growth and development. If your child goes to public school, the primary part of his grade school through high school education is free. That said, preschool, private school and child care-related expenses can take up a good chunk of your income. The USDA notes that child care and education costs come in second to housing in terms of overall expenditures, making up 18 percent of all child-related expenses from birth through age 17.

Higher Costs

When looking at how parents spend money on their children, the USDA notes that there are certain trends or fluctuations in expenses over the course of the child's life. Instead of spending equal amounts on a yearly basis, specific situations may necessitate spending either more or less money. For example, expenditures on children tend to go up as the child ages. Additionally, geographic factors also influence how much a parent will spend. According to the USDA's 2011 figures, parents in the urban Northeast spend the highest amounts on their children in comparison to families in the rest of the country.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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