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Cost of raising a child increased modestly from 2009 to 2010

This may not be news to parents, but the cost of raising a child in the United States has gone up over the past few years. Divorced parents working on child support agreements may be surprised to learn that an annual report produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has some influence on Illinois child support guidelines.

The report reviewed expenditures for two-parent and single-parent households with children age 0 to 17. Total expenditures were broken into seven categories: housing, food, transportation, clothing, child care and education, health care and miscellaneous. Data were also analyzed and compared by region of residence: urban Northeast, urban South, urban Midwest (Chicago's region), urban West, and rural areas.

Overall, the cost of raising a child born in 2010 increased 2.1 percent over 2009. The child care and education, transportation and health care categories experienced the biggest gains -- together, they accounted for almost one third of the cost of raising one child in a two-parent, two-child household.

In 2010, the average husband-wife family (distinguished as such by the USDA) spent between $11,880 and $13,830 on a child. Two-parent families with annual incomes lower than $57,600 (about a third of all two-parent families) will spend $163,440 during that child's lifetime (2010 dollars). Single-parent households with the same income -- about 85 percent of all single-parent families in the report -- will spend 7 percent less than their two-parent counterparts. Perhaps coincidentally, 85 percent of the single-parent households were headed by women.

Consider, though, the difference between those families and families with incomes over $99,730: The latter will pay $377,440. The higher-income families earn about one-and-a-half times the lower income family's salary, but the former may spend more than double on raising a child.

For parents who think they're spending too much on diapers, it will be no comfort to know that expenses go up as the child gets older. Over a lifetime, the most expensive category was housing, accounting for a little less than one third. The next category, at 17 percent, was child care and education. Anyone who has sat a dinner table with a teenage boy will be surprised to learn that food only accounted for 16 percent.

The Midwest fell, appropriately, in the middle. The most expensive region was the urban Northeast. The urban West ran second, then the urban Midwest, urban South and rural areas.

The USDA uses the report in its education programs, as well. The objective is to teach parents what to expect and how to plan as they raise their children.

Source: Bloomberg.com, "Cost to raise 2010 U.S. newborn is $226,920," Alan Bjerga, 06/09/2011

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