The True Cost of Raising a Child in 2016


From conception through college graduation, raising a child is a costly endeavor. Although it’s impossible to target an exact number, listing childcare categories and itemizing them into child expenses can help predict an estimate.  Let’s take a look at some of the main expenses we’ll be dealing with when raising a child form the ages of 0-18 in 2016, here in the United States.

Prenatal Care

Child care costs start at conception, as proper prenatal care is essential. Cost Helper estimates that nine months of prenatal care averages $2,000, going by figures from the Kaiser Foundation. The full nine months are counted as women are finding out earlier in their pregnancy that they are expecting, due to the availability and reliability of home pregnancy tests. Today’s health care laws prevent pregnancy from being classified as a “pre-existing” condition, so more pregnant women have insurance, which can cover a percentage of the doctor’s visits and pre-natal vitamins. As this is an estimate, a pregnancy with complications that requires more frequent monitoring with ultrasounds or special medications may cost more.


Cost Helper also estimates the cost of vaginal child delivery to be approximately $9,000 to $17,000 cash, with much of this usually covered by insurance. If a women must have a C-section, this cost can inflate to $14,000 to $25,000. Out of pocket expense after insurance runs from $500 to $3,000, depending on plan coverage.

Medical Visits

The average co-pay for a doctor’s visit typically range from $10 to $30 per visit, depending on the plan. Newborns generally see the doctor 9 times or more during the first year, costing up to $2700 dollars and during the baby’s second year parents usually see the doctor every other month, adding up to $1800 in co-payments. After that, twice yearly checkups are recommended. This cost does not include urgent care visits or special health issues, like ear infections, common to young children. Factoring in 2 visits per year at the highest cost, plus two urgent care visits with a co-pay of $50, it costs about $110 dollars per year for medical care, ages 2-18. This adds up to about $74,000 dollars with additional costs if the parent carries the child on their insurance and pays medical care expenses for the child during their college years.


Unfortunately for parents, dental insurance does not cover children as well as medical insurance does. Although some dentists offer free yearly exams, very few children walk out the door with no follow up needed, and the basic cleaning that a pediatric dentist recommends twice a year add up to $50 and $150 for a routine exam and cleaning. Filling cavities costs a lot extra so it’s an extra incentive to keep your kids away from sugar and encourage good oral hygiene. Despite preventative measures, many children need items like orthodontist care (braces) which can cost up to $6,000, as cited by 1Dental. As 45% of children need braces, it’s not unreasonable to add this to the cost of average child rearing expense, bringing a total average for dental care until age 18 to approximately $10,000 in dental co-pays. Many dentists are now offering dental credit cards, to help parents pay off these costs, with interest.


It’s obvious that parents who send their child to public school incur less expense than those who pay private school tuition. Even so, public school is not totally free. The cost of school supplies, school clothing and extra expense for team sports activities. A US News Education article, 5 Hidden Costs of Public High School, estimates that everything from computer costs to taking the SAT can cause many parents to spend the child’s college fund before high school graduation. With the cost of a four year degree at a public institution being around $17,474 in 2013, according to he National Center for Education Statistics, and as college prices are only going up, rounding up 20,000 for 2016 is not unreasonable for both public school education and the cheapest 4-year college degree, adding up to a whopping $40,000 for 16 years of education at a public or state institution.


Clothing is a wild card expense, as parents can shop at the local Walmart, or dress their children in designer fashion, according to their budget and priorities. Many families save money on the second child, as they can wear hand-me-downs from older siblings. An average of 5 back to school outfit including two pairs of shoes at Walmart can cost around $300-$500, but the same shopping for popular brand name items can cost $300 for one pair of shoes alone. Taking into account $100 per month as a clothing allowance for dress wear and sports wear, a child will cost a parent about $22,000 in clothing, if they shop for bargains.


No matter how tight your budget, parents spend on entertainment for their child. If the average cost to see a film is $8.17, according to If the child gets in for half price age 3-12, you are still looking at 9 years at $4.00 per week, adding up to $1872 and thereafter the adult ticket rounded down to 8 dollars comes to 6 years coming in around $2500. If not the movies, most families go to the min-golf course, bowling alley, or other venue to spend that amount of cash or more. This is only taking the child’s cost into account, at $5,327, while the accompanying parent or parents compound the total cost. This is a very conservative estimate, as many families treat their children to live shows and vacation attractions at a significantly higher price.


USA Today Reported in 2013  that it costs approximately $146 to $289 a week in 2013 to feed a healthy diet to a family of four . Using the higher estimate for 2016, and dividing it by four, a child now costs 73 dollars per week. Times that by 52 weeks for 18 years and it takes about $69,000 to feed a child. This estimate would hold true for children of all ages, as babies require special items like formula and baby food that can exceed one fourth of an average portion of a prepared meal for an older child.

To add up all of these expenses:

  • Prenatal Care: $2,000
  • Delivery: $3000
  • Medical Care: $74,000
  • Dental Care: $10,000
  • Public Education: $40,000
  • Clothing: $22,000
  • Entertainment: $5,400
  • Food: $69,000

Total Estimate: $225,440

Insurance coverage, geographical location, scholarships and eligibility for public assistance all can factor into the cost of raising your child. Many parents are handling this expense by making their own clothing, growing their own food, and opting not to send their child to college, as the money invested in higher education does not guarantee a good job after graduation.

Another USA Today article estimated that in 2012, it cost approximately $217,000 to $500,000 dollars to raise a child to age 18. This figure would basically hold true for 2016, if you balance reduced health care cost premiums with what they were before the passing of the Affordable Care Act, against the rising cost of consumer goods and college tuition.


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