When it comes to children, more Americans are just saying “no.” In 2011, the U.S. fertility rate fell to the lowest rate ever reported — 63.2 births per thousand women ages 15 — 44. It’s now dropped for five straight years and reflects the longer term trend toward smaller families.
Historically, child-bearing fluctuates with the national mood — it rises when people feel optimistic and financially secure. But with the cost of children continuing to increase, and income stagnant, many experts think the U.S.’s baby boom days are over.
PHOTO GALLERY: The 12 Most Expensive States to Raise Kids
Today, parents are paying closer attention to the added costs of having a baby — and many are waiting to conceive until they have their finances in order. The experience of being a parent may be priceless, but it’s wise to plan ahead for the income needed to support that next generation.
If you’re a new parent this year, that cute bundle will cost you anywhere from $169,000 to $390,000 (in 2011 dollars) by the time they’re age 18, depending on your income level, according to data released in June by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report shows that housing constitutes the largest share of that expense — about a third of the total cost — followed by food, child care, education, and transportation. And that’s only what happens up to age 18; the total doesn’t include college tuition and fees, which at in-state public universities now average $8,655 a year, according to the College Board.
For middle-income families — those earning from about $59,000 to $103,000 — all of those costs are up since 1995. Even after accounting for inflation, housing is up by about 5 percent, child care and education by a huge 172 percent (private school tuition has more than doubled in that period), transportation by 12 percent, and college tuition by 120 percent.
The cost of children also varies considerably depending on where you live. Yearly median child care costs run about $11,200 in the state of New York but only $4,200 in South Carolina, for example. New Hampshire and Vermont have the highest published in-state tuition charges, at around $14,000 each. Wyoming has the lowest at $4,287, followed by Utah at $5,595, according to the College Board.
To calculate the most expensive states, we looked at annual child care and housing costs from Child Care Aware of America’s Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, and divided the total housing cost for a family by four. In-state tuition and fees come from the College Board’s 2012 Annual Survey of Colleges, and food costs were calculated by using the Consumer Expenditure Survey Data Table for the Northeast, Midwest, South and West regions and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To obtain the average annual food cost for an individual child, we divided the total food cost for a family by four.