Thanks to Joel Marx for alerting me to Newsweek’s article by Robert J. Samuelson, called The Parent Trap, urging the U.S. to make it easier for Americans to have more babies.
Among the government’s most interesting reports is one that estimates what parents spend on their children. Not surprisingly, the costs are steep. For a middle-class, husband-and-wife family (average pretax income in 2009: $76,250), spending per child is about $12,000 a year. Assuming modest annual inflation (2.8 percent), the report estimates that the family’s spending on a child born in 2009 would total $286,050 by age 17. A two-child family would cost about $600,000. All these estimates may be understated, because they don’t include college costs.
These dry statistics ought to inform the deficit debate, because a budget is not just a catalog of programs and taxes. It reflects a society’s priorities and values. Our society does not-despite rhetoric to the contrary-put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children. Down that path lies economic decline.
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