The price tag of parenthood: the cost of raising a child in New York state

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Embracing the arrival of a new family member brings joy and fulfillment, but for many New York state residents, the financial burden of raising a child from birth to 18-years-old can be staggering.

“We observe that with economic development, households have fewer children, and invest more in each child,” said Elizabeth Schmitt, an economics professor at SUNY Oswego. “This is evident with economic growth experiences across countries. Globally, since 1965, fertility has fallen from five children per woman to 2.5 children.”

According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 in the United States is approximately $233,610.

However, in New York state, where the cost of living is higher than the national average, the financial investment is even more significant.

In New York City, the largest metropolitan area in the state, the cost of raising a child can be exponentially higher due to factors such as housing, childcare, and education expenses.

“We observe that falling infant mortality, women’s education, and the availability of birth control for family planning all play big roles,” Schmitt said. “In the United States, we are also dealing with a drop-off in birth rates since 2008. This demographic cliff will really affect colleges and job markets beginning in 2026. This drop-off certainly relates to the cost of having children.”

Information provided by: New York State Department of Labor.

Families often find themselves allocating a significant portion of their income solely to housing costs in the middle of escalating rents and property prices.

“Rent is unreasonable these days!” said Justice Roman, a father from Brooklyn. “Right now, there are five of us in a studio apartment: me, my wife, and three of our kids. We have been looking for a place to move but it is either too expensive or too far from my job.”

Jennifer Roberts, a parent from Oswego, echoes this sentiment.

“The increasing cost in New York has impacted my family due to child care being so much and also so hard to find as well,” Roberts said. “Jobs just aren’t paying enough and keeping up with inflation is difficult. We are forced to make decisions based on what we can afford, and it is to basically just cover child care.”

Child care expenses pose a significant financial challenge for many families in New York state. The Economic Policy Institute reports the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in the state is $15,394, surpassing the average cost of in-state college tuition.

“For one, it means I have to work more hours while my children’s mother takes care of them all day,” Roman said. “Meaning, in all actuality, I only get to spend time with my kids on the weekends. By the time I get home, they’re all sleeping, and I leave for work before 9 a.m. daily.”

“The biggest expense was definitely formula, especially being they don’t have a cheaper brand for babies with severe allergies,” Roberts said. “Nutramigen (hypoallergenic formula) is double the cost of regular formula. Diapers are also getting to be expensive compared to what they were 13 years ago.”

Education is another major financial consideration for parents in New York state.

“College is considered essential, and tuition has risen much faster than incomes in the past few decades,” Schmitt said.

While public education is theoretically free, many families invest in private schools or tutoring services to ensure their children receive a quality education.

The rising cost of college tuition is a significant concern for parents planning for their child’s future.

The College Board reports the average annual cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution in New York state is $11,260 for in-state residents, while private colleges can cost $41,540 on average per year.

Healthcare expenses also contribute substantially to the overall cost of raising a child in New York state.

While many families have health insurance coverage through their employers or government programs, out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, copayments, and prescription medications can accumulate.

“Considering the opportunity cost, as women have gotten more education, their earnings have also risen, relative to men,” Schmitt said. “This means the opportunity cost of having children–what you give up to spend time raising children, is also higher for the primary caregiver parent, and this tends to be women. Thus, the implicit and explicit costs to having children are significantly higher.”

This significant economic consideration intersects deeply with the broader challenges of child-rearing, especially in areas like New York state where the financial demands are particularly high.

“Teamwork is key to raising kids and dealing with expenses,” Roman said. “Once again, this goes back to my child’s mother… I’m grateful she’s there to help me and the kids. I can easily say being a single parent is beyond difficult, thank God I never experienced that, but I could only imagine just through my day-to-day routine.”

Through prioritizing savings, prudent budgeting, and exploring cost-saving strategies, parents can provide their children with a secure and prosperous future despite the financial challenges they may encounter along the way.

“Well to be honest, the cost of anything shouldn’t affect parenthood in my opinion,” Roman said. “If you are a father or mother, you have to protect and take care of your children at all costs. Sure, the rise of prices and costs of living makes things more difficult, but teamwork makes the dream work always. If a family doesn’t work together that only makes it more difficult to raise a family.”