The Cost of Raising Kids

We all know that raising kids cost money. But exactly how much is a hot topic for debate because it is the basis for many of our societal principles and policies.

May is Child Care Month – celebrate a child-ca...
(Photo credit: BC Gov Photos)

Once you’ve made the decision to have children, you know that you will be forking out the dough to keep them fed and clothed. You also want to make sure that they are active and well cared for so that they can grow up healthy. Most parents want the best for their children and will go to great lengths towards this goal.

Since we all need to budget for our child’s expenses, it is useful to know what is considered the annual costs of raising a child. Governments are also interested in studies on child raising expenditures because it allows to set policies such as child poverty levels and child care. From both points of view, the new Fraser Institute study called The Cost of Raising Children is cause for alarm.

The prevailing consensus for the cost of raising a child in Canada is in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 per year.  The Fraser Institute paper charges that this is an extreme over exaggeration. They claim that the basic marginal costs necessary for the healthy development of a child could be sufficiently reached with an annual outlay of $3,000 to $4,500. These costs  could be lower if savings strategies such as home gardens, sewing and knitting clothing,  using coupons and taking advantage of sales, own repair and maintenance work in the home were incorporated.

But let’s dig a little deeper into their assumptions. Their study did not incorporate daycare as a cost component. They claim that day care is NOT an issue. The report states that “In 2009, for middle income ($75,000-$125,000), younger (25-44) couples with one child, half (51%) had zero expenditures on child care. If we consider all couple families with one child (all ages and all income levels), 80% had zero spending on child care. And if we look at all lone-parent families with one child, 87% spent $0 on child care. “

Zero spending on child care when (according to their numbers) 77% of families have two people working! That seems totally nonsensical.

The other major issue I have with this study is that they seemed to focus a lot of the expenditure data on 0-12 years of age. I argue that raising a child should include expenses through the end of high school, that is, age 18. We all know with teens, their clothing and food costs soar. When my last child left the house, our food bill was cut in half!

Finally, the right-wing agenda of the Fraser Institute is plainly evidenced in their conclusion. They fire that the current consensus on child raising costs are  “associated with left-liberal and social democratic positions, is part of a redistributionist perspective and it would be naive to ignore the influence it has on public policy. A high cost of children is consistent with this agenda.” 

A lower cost of raising children would enable a right-wing agenda. If you say it costs less to raise a child then you’ve changed the income bar which defines child poverty and the need for affordable day care. It says that “Hey parents, you can afford to pay for those extra music or sports activities”. Development activities that are no longer readily available in school.

I am very concerned if this study gets traction. It can shake many principles used in our society. I am concerned because right-wing governments seems to like the Fraser Institute.

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