Raising a Child in America Is More Expensive Than It Has Ever Been

Image Credit: Pixabay

One of the reasons that millennials cite for either not having or waiting to have children is that they just can’t afford it. And while it’s true that raising kids has always been pricey, it’s also true that the current cost is higher than ever…and it’s still rising.

So is it really the case that people raising families today have it harder than their parents, or even grandparents? I mean, there were challenges in every era, right?

Image Credit: Pixabay

Very true – no one’s arguing that World War II wasn’t a tough time to raise kids.

But millennials also have a valid argument about the difficulty of childrearing in 2019.

According to the U.S. government, raising one child in today’s economy costs around $13,290 a year – a total of $233,610 before they head of to college.  That’s $31,000 more than it was in 1960, adjusted for inflation.

Not only that, but there are four factors (some related to kids, some not) that are causing increased economic hardships for millennial parents.

Saving for College

In 1980, the cost of attending a 4-year public or private college in the US was around $3190 a year ($10,334.18, adjusted). The majority of the costs were offset by financial aid given in the form of grants, and most graduates had little, if any, debt following them after graduation.

In 2015, most parents paid around $22k a year for their kids’ 4-year degree, and those graduates left with an average of $17k+ in debt. In 2019, the average grad leaves with over $28k.

This all means that the average cost of a college education has increased by over 1100% since 1980…but wages have basically stagnated.

Child Care Costs

In the 70s and 80s, an average week of childcare costs people around $94 a week ($4888 a year) – about 7%  of an average family’s income. In 2017, Child Care Aware reported parents spending around $9697 a year for the same care, around 16% of an average family’s annual income. And in bigger cities, that number can grow to more like $18k a year.

By the time the child of two working parents enters kindergarten, their care could have cost more than $48k, and that’s not considering extracurriculars like dance or sports.


View this post on Instagram

The misleading headlines say debt is at an all time high! However, if you look at debt vs disposable income it's lower than it was in 1980!!! ? … Housing costs are higher but so are wages! … #keepingcurrentmatters #realestatemarket #economy #housingcosts #orangecountymarketupdate #orangecountyrealestate #caliberrealestate #creg19 #thecaliberway

A post shared by Team Carrie & Charisse_Caliber (@caliberregroup) on

The national median price of a single-family home in 2019 is $218k, and prices are rising faster than both inflation and wage growth – meaning that owning a home, even a starter home, is out of reach for many millennials.

In 1980, comparable homes cost around $47k ($153k adjusted).


View this post on Instagram

— edit: see comments, maybe my rage is misplaced bc i was missing context. however my rage is still valid because this system is broken even if OP is intentionally misleading?? — stolen from redpotion on tumblr: “my boss was telling us he started in 1966 at $9 an hour so we shouldnt complain about our wages.” #politicsmatter #moneyoutofpolitics #votethemout #wagestagnation

A post shared by ?⚖️? (@applesweaters) on

Even though the median household income is higher than it’s ever been, wages have actually been stagnating for decades – since the 80s, in fact. Over the past 40 years, inflation has been rising, which raises the price of food, clothing, housing, cars, education, healthcare…literally everything. And the increased role of technology in our lives has added significant weekly and monthly expenses that didn’t exist 30 years ago.

Since 1979, hourly wages for middle-income workers has risen only 6%, and it’s actually dropped 5% for low-income workers. Wages for college grads continue to fall, too, with recent averages listing it as around $17 an hour.

Long story short? Even though people’s paychecks are larger in 2019, they have less expendable income than their parents or even their grandparents did at their disposal. Which means that if and when they decide to make a baby, raising that kid is going to be tougher than ever before, purely based on cost.

But I mean, they’re cute. So there’s that.