Maybe this kind of watershed moment won’t win us the Nobel Prize. But in our world – and based on the relief in my wife’s demeanor – it was a golden achievement years in the making.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

All the same, we recognize our toil is just beginning. Larger challenges await our brood, and it’s definitely going to cost us. The USDA offered a reminder of that reality with its most recent report – Expenditures on Children and Families – also known as the survey on the Cost of Raising a Child.

This report has been done annually since 1960 by conducting hundreds of surveys with families of all ranges and demographics, using the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The new data show that a middle-income family raising a child born in 2013 can expect to cough up $245,340 for food, housing, health care, child care and education (not including college) until that kid reaches age 18.

Housing was the top expense for raising a kid at 30 percent of all costs, followed by child care and education (18 percent), and then food (16 percent).


The report is especially remarkable for what it says about the costs linked to buying food and groceries. The study makes a noteworthy assessment of how food costs changed from 1960 to 2013. In 1960, food accounted for 24 percent of the total costs of raising a child. In 2013, it dropped to 16 percent.

“Food was also one of the largest expenses in both time periods but decreased in real terms. Changes in agriculture over the past 50 years have resulted in family food budgets being a lower percentage of household income.”

Housing costs associated with each child have gone up over that span, as did transportation, health care, child care (which wasn’t a huge demand in the early ’60s), and that still says nothing about costs of college.

Yet with the food we feed our kids, the costs of feeding a child have gone down and created a smaller burden for the family budget. It bewilders me how this accomplishment has not been widely celebrated. Instead, technological changes from agriculture are viewed as a curse by critics of the industry.

I recently wrote that if consumers want foods with premium labels such as organic, all-natural or antibiotic-free, they should pay for it. In that same breath, those of us who gladly buy conventionally raised foods also need to recognize the price we pay – or rather we don’t pay – to feed our families safe, healthy and affordable food.

Some critics may not believe that. But when our kids get back from school hungry and head straight to the fridge, I’m not hearing many complaints.  end mark

David Cooper