According to a recent U.S. government report, the average cost of raising a child born in 2012 to age 18 is now $241,080 ($301,970 if you adjust for inflation). And believe it or not, this projection doesn’t include money for college! This is a 2.6% increase from the previous year. The study also showed that American families spend most of their money on housing, with childcare being a close second.
Now I know this financial study has been conducted since 1960 (probably costing taxpayers millions of dollars), but really, what’s the point? Does it help parents to know what they already know–that it costs a lot of money to raise children to adulthood? Do we need another study that describes yet a new crisis for America? Or, is this data put on display for a more sinister reason–to influence our behavior? The only message I’m receiving from this information is: It’s just too darn expensive to have kids (at least more than one or two).
Hold on to that thought for a moment, and let’s pair it with another recent study: Birthrates continues to decline in the U.S. According to this study, American women are delaying having children and are having fewer of them, setting new record lows in birthrate data. The nation’s fertility rate has now fallen to 63.2 births per 1,000 women. To put it another way, women are now only having 1.89 children, below the magic 2.1 children-per-woman “replacement rate” that a nation needs for demographic stability.
Now let’s connect these two studies. Obviously, there are many factors why American women are having fewer children than ever before in history. But the number one factor according to most analysts is the POOR ECONOMY. In other words, parents are taking into account how much it costs to have and raise kids, choosing to keep that number down to not bust their budgets. So what happens when you communicate to people that it is just getting more and more expensive to raise children? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we’ll potentially keep on having fewer and fewer children born to American parents.
Being a father of eight, I recognize that finances play a part in the decision to have more children. Every time my wife and I went into our “child negotiations” as I called it, I would get pretty stressed out about my ability to provide (or trust God to provide). I still have those bouts of concern from time to time. So it just isn’t that helpful to let me know what the final bill may be for each of my gifts from God! This focus on the price tag on our kids will dishearten people; which again, I think is the point.
The study I would like to see is the birthrate statistics for Christians who profess to have a Biblical world-and-life view. Maybe our birthrates are higher. Maybe money isn’t the most important decision factor for family size. But if our birthrates aren’t much different from non-believers (like the divorce rate), then we should be even more concerned. We would have some serious Biblical education to do with our young people!
When we let Scripture inform our thinking about having and raising children, then the starting point is that children are a heritage from the LORD, a tremendous reward from Him (Psalm 127). They are a gift and an immense blessing, not just a drain on our pocketbooks. From that foundation, raising children from a Christian worldview would also change how much money we spend to raise them, being good stewards of our finances and not indulging them materially. We would trust God for the necessary resources, knowing that our main task is not just providing for their physical needs but for their spiritual needs as well. Then we learn that the greatest “cost” parents have in raising children is not financial; but mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. Children are not too expensive to raise–they are one of God’s greatest ways to sanctify us and extend His Kingdom!