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Your child, in dollars and cents

A USDA study concluded that it costs parents, on average, nearly a quarter-million dollars to raise their children from zero to 18.

A big part of this election is going to be about the future, about the economy... Which brings us to the economics of babies. Not at a national level, but an individual, personal-finance-y one. There's a new study out that shows the cost of sending an infant to daycare can be as much a sending a teen to an in-state college.

But even for people who come up with a less-expensive childcare options, kids aren't cheap. The USDA estimates the price tag for the first 18 years of a child's life is, on average, a quarter-million dollars. Chump change that is not. Dr. Mark Lino authored the USDA's study (PDF).

Although it may seem like babies have a lot of upfront costs involved, that period is one of the periods parents spend the least on their child. When do parents spend the most?

"Teenagers are the most expensive," Lino said. "They have high transportation costs; these are the years they start to drive, so you add them onto your auto insurance or buy them a second automobile. They also have high food costs, they need more food."

Lino said the study isn't done to discourage people from having children. Rather, the study is to help states set child support and foster care payments. And in some schools, to show teenagers how much children cost as a means to deter teen pregnancies.

Listen to the interview above to learn about more findings from the study.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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