New CFRP Project: How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child in Texas?

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August 21, 2014

How much does it cost to raise a child in Texas? Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP), and her team have been tasked to answer that question for the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division (OAG).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released their Expenditures on Children by Families report with 2013 data. The report shows that a middle-income family in the U.S. is projected to spend $245,340 on a child born in 2013 up to age 18 for food, housing, childcare and education, and other child-rearing expenses. The report also shows that to raise that child in the urban South region, including Texas, is actually lower at $230,610.

However, after a comprehensive review of the Texas Child Support guidelines for the OAG, Dr. Osborne and CFRP determined that the USDA expenditure data are not a suitable source for determining the cost of raising a child in Texas:

  • The USDA data provide only broad expenditure categories for primarily higher income, two-parent families and do not provide the regional variation in costs that may be applicable to Texas families, particularly lower-income families who are more likely to be recipients of child support.
  • Texas is part of the USDA’s urban South region, but the region includes Delaware and the District of Columbia, neither of which are comparable to Texas with respect to cost of living or geographic context.
  • In addition, the expenditure data provide estimates only on what families spend, but provide less information on what the real costs of raising a child include. Costs may be met by families in a variety of ways, such as income from earnings, borrowing, reliance on public assistance, forgoing the good, or spending more than is necessary.
  • The USDA data does not provide information on the costs of raising a child across two households, which is the reality for most children in the child support system. For example, children live most of their time with the custodial parent, but spend a proportion of their time in the noncustodial parent’s household.

As they develop the estimation model of the cost of raising a child in Texas, Dr. Osborne and CFRP will attempt to identify the actual costs associated with childrearing and also illustrate how families across various income levels and social circumstances meet these costs. The model will be replicable on an annual basis and use data that are available publicly at no cost.

“We’ve already started the groundwork and are eager to see how the model develops. Creating a cost estimation model specifically for Texas families and with our high needs populations in mind will result in an invaluable tool for policymakers and programs,” said Dr. Osborne. “It will be the first Texas-specific model and the impact could reach far beyond child support.”

The project research team is led by Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Associate Professor and CFRP Director, and Dr. Kaeley Bobbitt, Senior Policy Analyst. For more about the Estimation Model for Cost of Raising Children in Texas project, click here.