The USDA's annual report, Expenditures on Children by Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child, found a middle-income family with a child born in 2012 can expect to spend about $241,080 for food, shelter and other necessities associated with child-rearing expenses over the next 17 years -- a 2.6 percent increase from 2011.
The report is based on data from the federal government's 2005-06 Consumer Expenditure Survey updated to 2012 dollars, which asked U.S. adults to check their records and provide data on what they actually spent -- before the recession and when housing data was at its peak.
The report said a family earning less than $60,640 per year could expect to spend a total of $173,490 a year -- in 2012 dollars -- on a child from birth through high school, middle-income parents with an income from $60,640-$105,000 can expect to spend $241,080 and a family earning more than $105,000 can expect to spend $399,780.
For middle-income families, housing costs were the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging $71,820 or 30 percent of the total cost over 17 years.
However, for those who live in an apartment or house with two bedrooms or more, the $71,820, or $352 a month, might not need to be included in the child cost forecast.
"Certainly, the housing cost might be less expensive -- children could share a room with a sibling -- but the report reflected what people actually spent in 2005-06, which reflected an average of two children, and most chose to have a separate bedroom for each child and more than one bathroom in the home," a USDA spokesman told United Press International.
"The report reflected that most families with two children bought a larger home and a larger vehicle, but these two expenses, as well as the cost of food, which included dining at restaurants, could be significantly lower."
The food budget calculation took a family's food budget and designated 17 percent to 25 percent for a child in a two-child, husband-wife family and 25 percent to 34 percent for a child in a two-child, single-parent family.
For a 6- to 8-year-old, the younger child in a husband-wife, two-child household in the middle-income group, overall household healthcare expenditures were estimated to be $5,390 in 2012 dollars.
The healthcare budget share was designated to be 18 percent, by the USDA Thus, healthcare expenditures for the 6- to 8-year-old were estimated to be $970 out-of-pocket, the spokesman said.
Child care and education expenses consisted of day-care tuition and supplies; baby-sitting; elementary and high school tuition, books, fees, and supplies.
However, the report said child care and education was the only budgetary component for which about half of all households reported no expenditure.
"The reason some families indicated they spent nothing on education was because a grandparent or relative picked up the cost of a child's education up to age 17," the spokesman said.