How much does it cost to raise a kid in Canada?
Parenthood can be a magical and supremely fulfilling experience that brings a lifetime of rewards. It can also do a number on your wallet.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a yearly figure on how much it costs to raise a kid, Canada doesn’t have a definitive number. (The U.S. info, we should note, is based on estimates of housing, transportation and clothing costs, among other criteria.)
The latest number from south of the border estimates that raising a kid born in 2015 to age 18 will cost the average middle income family a whopping $233,610.
A 2011 article that appeared in the Canadian publication MoneySense placed the estimate at $12,824 a year, which adds up to $243,656 over 18 years. Those numbers were then updated by the magazine in 2015 to reflect inflation. The yearly average rose to $13,366.
“The costs of some basic things, like housing and child care, have been going up very fast over the last five to 10 years,” says Iglika Ivanova, senior economist and public interest researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in Vancouver. “Child care has risen two to three times more than the rate of inflation.”
MoneySense‘s estimates were in stark contrast to those released by the Fraser Institute in 2013 which garnered much fanfare. The latter report, conducted by Christopher Sarlo, Fraser Institute senior fellow and economics professor at Nipissing University, averages the yearly costs of raising a child from $3,000 to $4,500. But experts have widely debunked his estimates.
“The problem with the Fraser Institute report is that important categories of cost were left out, like child care, shelter and transportation,” says Sid Frankel, an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba. “As a result, it’s not surprising that it’s an estimate that many parents say is unrealistic. [Sarlo] says that transportation costs weren’t relevant because families make those decisions based on their individual lifestyles, but many have argued that having children largely impacts the kind of car you buy and if, in fact, you need to be a two-car household.”
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While there are a number of factors that come into play when estimating the costs of raising a child, three main ones stand out as the most crucial and expensive: housing, food and child care. And all three are steadily rising in Canada.
According to the latest statistics from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the median rental cost of a two-bedroom apartment is $962 per month, although Ivanova points out that prices vary widely even among large urban areas. Consider that in Toronto, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment is over $1,100, while in Montreal, it’s $751.
Regardless, “over the last year alone, the median rent of a two-bedroom apartment increased by 4.8 per cent in Canada,” she says.
Food prices are also set to rise in 2017. It is estimated that there will be a three to five per cent increase in food prices, especially protein, fruits and vegetables, which are projected to rise four to six per cent in cost, according to a Global News report. Overall, it would amount to a $420 yearly increase in Canadians’ grocery bills.
That’s especially disheartening news for parents of teen boys, Ivanova says. In B.C., it is estimated that the monthly cost of feeding a boy between 14 and 18 years of age is $311, girls in the same group average $223.
Child care costs, which are by and large the most impactful, are also staggering. The latest report from the CCPA indicates an average rise in the cost of childcare of eight per cent since 2014. It’s three times more than the rate of inflation.
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The fact that Canada isn’t able to come up with average yearly figures for raising a child urgently needs to be addressed, experts say.
“The lack of a comprehensive estimate, whether it’s by using a budgetary approach or a survey approach, is really problematic,” Frankel says. “A whole bunch of social policy decisions should be based on a standard budget. The variations across the country [between rural and urban areas] is a manageable problem. It’s a matter of having the will and finding the resources to do it.”
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