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Get ready for sticker shock: USDA says average cost to raise a child up slightly to $245,340

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WASHINGTON - A message for new parents: get ready for sticker shock.

A child born in 2013 will cost a middle-income American family an average of $245,340 until he or she reaches the age of 18, with families living in the Northeast taking on a greater burden, according to a report out Monday. And that doesn't include college — or expenses if a child lives at home after age 17.

Those costs that are included — food, housing, childcare and education — rose 1.8 per cent over the previous year, the Agriculture Department's new "Expenditures on Children and Families" report said. As in the past, families in the urban Northeast will spend more than families in the urban South and rural parts of the U.S., or roughly $282,480.

When adjusting for projected inflation, the report found that a child born last year could cost a middle-income family an average of about $304,480.

The USDA's annual report, based on the government's Consumer Expenditure Survey, found families were consistent in how they spent their money across all categories from 2012 to 2013. The costs associated with pregnancy or expenses accumulated after a child becomes an adult, such as college tuition, were not included.

In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could spend about $25,230, equivalent to $198,560 in 2013 dollars, to raise a child until the age of 18. Housing costs remain the greatest child-rearing expense, as they did in the 1960s, although current-day costs like childcare were negligible back then.

For middle-income families, the USDA found, housing expenses made up roughly 30 per cent of the total cost of raising a child. Child care and education were the second-largest expenses, at 18 per cent, followed by food at 16 per cent.

Expenses per child decrease as a family has more children, the report found, as families with three or more children spend 22 per cent less per child than families with two children. That's because more children share bedrooms, clothing and toys, and food can be purchased in larger, bulk quantities.

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Online:

The USDA's full report: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/CRC/crc2013.pdf

USDA's "Cost of Raising a Child" calculator: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/tools/CRC_Calculator/default.aspx

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