Are you a parent or thinking of becoming one? If so, the federal government has a new report that will cause your bank account to gasp.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610, or as much as almost $14,000 annually. That’s the average for a middle-income couple with two children (the cost is more in urban areas and a bit cheaper in rural locales).
While this may sound like a hefty expense, the return on investment of children is quite high. As James Heckman notes The American:
In times of economic adversity, governments look for temporary stimulus packages, be it cash for clunkers or shovel-ready jobs filling potholes. More often than not, they overlook America’s best economic stimulus package with lasting benefits long after the money is spent—investing in the youngest among us and producing significant economic and social benefits with rates of return that are comparable to the high return on stocks over the long run.
A couple of years ago, Acton’s Joseph Sunde also gave us reasons not to be cowed by the sticker shock:
What would God have you do? Going back to my initial point, and first and foremost above all else: With our newfound choice in all things family- and sex-related, our decision-making process must be rooted in obedience to God, which includes a heightened sense of obligation to spouse and community, and a far healthier view of sacrifice, happiness, and meaning than we as a culture currently possess. Russia tries to give away fancy prize packages to counter its population decline, and such measures continue to fail because they ignore a fundamental ingredient of a society with flourishing families: submission to priorities more powerful and compelling than free refrigerators and materialistic gimmicks.
Again, financial considerations are important, and they ought to remain an active part of our discernment and decision-making process. Likewise, God does not call everyone to have kids, nor to have them as soon or as young as possible. Even for those who embrace the calling, many face severe and painful hurdles in finding a good spouse or bearing children itself.
But when I ask young, married, prosperous millennials why they’re not having kids, more often than not, they point to illusions of comfort, their own personal plans and designs for the future (“wise” though they may be), and inflated notions of economic impossibility.