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Why is it so Much More Expensive to Raise Children Today?

14 January 2013

Yesterday we ran through a list of the biggest financial concerns that were on the minds of Canadians last year. On that list was the cost of raising children, which came in at a whopping cost of $191,665, according to the Manitoba Department of Agriculture. Those stats are up – waay up – from the $25,229 it cost in 1960, and the $69,333 it cost in 1980. So why on earth is it so much more expensive to raise a child today?

The answer is multi-tiered. One of the biggest reasons is because, as the cost of living increases, most households now need to have two incomes coming in, which means childcare is often a necessity. And it’s expensive. In Toronto you can expect to pay as much as $24,000 a year for the care of an infant in a licensed daycare centre. In B.C. you can find it for lower, at about $8,460, and in Quebec, the lowest of all, at a measly $7 a day. Good luck even getting on those waiting lists before your child is school-age though.

But still, the very fact that both parents are usually working today also means that there’s more income, which should offset those childcare costs. Today, women are making more than they ever have; in fact, 53 per cent more than they did 35 years ago.

Still, you can’t escape the fact that, childcare aside, parents are simply facing more costs today than they have before. Today a car seat, costing about $180, is necessary just to bring a newborn home after being born; that’s a cost that wasn’t there even in the 80s. Other car seats are then necessary for front-facing and rear-facing, and then the booster seat comes! In travel accommodations alone, parents today face around $400 just to get their child to the age of 8!

And, both parents are still working. While this does account for both bringing in more income and adding to expenses, there’s another factor at play when both parents are outside of the home for most of the day, nearly every day. That factor is guilt. Guilt that they can’t play as big a role in their child’s child-rearing as they thought they might, and guilt that they simply can’t spend the quality time with their kids that they’d like to.

In order to make up for that guilt, parents will often spend lots of money on their children in order to help make up for it. It’s not buying their love, but rather taking them on a very special trip or outing during the little time they do have together; or buying expensive sports equipment or craft projects to enjoy together, also during that time. This is another, less-often talked about byproduct of having both parents working outside of the home. Especially in today’s consumption-driven environment – by both kids, and their parents.

Yes, it’s definitely more expensive to raise children today than it was 50, and even 35, years ago. With so many parents needing to continue to work outside of the home, and with the world changing as it is, this most likely is also not a statistic that we’ll see drop significantly, either.

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