According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610.
This raises the obvious question: Why is a statistic like this coming from the Department of Agriculture?
Is that how much it costs to plant your children, keep bugs off them, irrigate them carefully, and pick them at the peak of freshness? Do you have to rotate…children one year, then corn, then children, then soybeans, then plow the whole thing over to build a baseball field? Do you have people criticize you for not having cage-free, antibiotic-free children? And do you sell them directly to local farm-to-table restaurants, or package them for Whole Foods?
I’m just kidding, of course. A good parent would simply sell their children at a roadside stand. My point is, nobody knows why the cost of raising children is a USDA statistic. It’s just something the agency took on back in 1960, when the estimated cost of raising a child to age 17 was $25,230. And that included building a bomb shelter in your backyard, because nobody really believed that bit about hiding under a desk when the Russkies dropped the big one.
If my math is correct, that means the cost of raising children has risen over 1,000% in 57 years. And if my math isn’t correct, it’s because my parents didn’t pay for tutoring.
Are we getting 1,000% more value from our children? I think not.
I also want to point out that these statistics are for raising a child through age 17. Which means that, unless your kid is one of those geniuses that has mathematically proven string theory by age 12, the $233,610 does not include college.
I’m pretty sure it also doesn’t include some of the other stuff that parents in metropolitan areas spend their money on, like private schools and gifts for the 27 bar mitzvahs your kid gets invited to (although it’s possible that only happens in the New York Metro area).
Speaking of which, according to a New York City Department of Agriculture 2014 estimate, it costs over $500,000 to raise a kid in New York City. Hah, I’m kidding again. There is no New York City Department of Agriculture. Why would there be? To oversee the community garden on 115th Street in Harlem (pictured at right)?
That half a million dollar estimate also comes from the USDA, whose economist, Mark Lino, tells New Yorkers that “The food is more expensive, and the housing — the housing is just off the charts for you guys.” This comment came as quite a shock to folks who thought that even people in red states pay $2,700 a month to rent a 750 sq. ft. apartment. (BTW, in 2016, the average price to buy a Manhattan apartment–the average price–was over $2 million.)
Anyway, that NYC cost of child rearing includes things like the cost of Metrocards for the subway, but doesn’t take into account the cost of extracurricular activities like Mommy and Me; Toddler Ballet; pre-school martial arts; tutoring for the SATS starting at age 7; year-round organized sports; medical bills for the ACL tear your kid gets playing organized sports; psychologist bills; anti-anxiety medications (for you and your child); your share of the limo for the prom; legal fees for the custody battle; and, in some cases, bail money.
This is all in sharp contrast to the early 20th century, when having kids didn’t cost you anything. That’s because, beginning at age 8, they went to work in garment factories, put in 10-hour days (so you didn’t even have to feed them lunch), and contributed their 90¢ weekly earnings to the household. Plus they didn’t go to school, so you didn’t have to worry about buying supplies. And they weren’t always crying about not having the latest smart phone, either. Also, you probably died before 50, so you didn’t have the onus of saving for retirement.
Those were the good old days.
But now, in the 21st Century, kids are really a lousy investment. Very bad ROI. Not only are they costing you at least a quarter million dollars just to get them to the point when you can get them the hell out of the house for four years, but then they come back, and cost you more money, and by the time they find a job that’s “fulfilling” and pay off their college loans, there’s absolutely no chance they’ll be able to provide for you in your old age which, thanks to advances in medicine, might be 100, and there you’ll be, drooling in your wheelchair, while your kids complain about having to take their kids to visit grandpa occasionally.
Take my advice. Buy bonds instead.
See you soon.