By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) - It takes a bundle of cash to raise a bundle of joy in the United States. New parents can expect to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars raising a child, according to a government report issued on Thursday.
A middle-class family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 in the next 17 years on food, shelter and other necessities. And that's before a family adds in the cost of college.
The cost comes to about $295,560 with projected inflation factored in, and represents a 3.5 percent jump from the cost outlook in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its report.
For Melissa Hutsell, 40, of Little Rock, Arkansas, a mother of six boys ages 3 to 15 years old, the economic side of parenting at times can seem staggering. With total household income around $50,000, Hutsell said her family relies on a lot of hand-me-down clothing, home schooling and tight budgeting.
"We definitely live on less than our family could use," Hutsell said. "Groceries have skyrocketed. The thing that takes the biggest chunk is groceries. If you don't have a lot of money but you have a lot of kids, you have to figure out how to spread it further and thinner."
The annual report, developed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and based on data from the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, said expenses for transportation, child care, education, food, housing, clothing, healthcare and other expenses all were rising.
URBAN SOUTH, RURAL AREAS CHEAPEST
The report said geographic variations in the cost of raising a child, with expenses the highest for families living in the urban Northeast, followed by the urban West and urban Midwest. Families living in the urban South and rural areas have the lowest child-rearing expenses, the USDA said.
Parents who earn more typically spend more on their children, the government report said. A family earning less than $59,410 per year can expect to spend a total of $169,080 on a child from birth through high school, while parents with an income between $59,410 and $102,870 can expect to spend $234,900; and a family earning more than $102,870 can expect to spend $389,670, the USDA said.
For 2011 alone, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,290 to $14,320, depending on the age of the child.
Jeff Russell, a 49-year-old father of three from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, described the costs of child-rearing as "astronomical."
Russell, who has spent much of his career involved in local planning projects, said he often worked extra jobs while his wife stayed home with the kids when they were young. He said they discussed whether they could afford to have a third child.
"We wanted to wait until we could afford it but we decided if we waited we never would have another," he said.
Russell said although his two sons are now grown, he fears high costs may keep his 16-year-old daughter from being able to attend college.
(Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Bill Trott)