While the joy of raising a child is priceless, the actual dollars and cents cost of it all is sharply on the rise, a new study shows.
The average cost of raising a child rose nearly 20% in the United States from 2016 to 2021, according to a study released this month by LendingTree, an online loan company.
In 2021, the most recent data available, the average cost of essential expenses for a child -- things like child care, clothing and food -- totaled $21,681, according to Lending Tree.
Five years earlier, in 2016, that cost was $18,167.
In today's market, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 in the U.S. is $237,482, according to Lending Tree.
The company's study took into account seven factors when it came to calculating the cost of a child: food, rent, child care, apparel, transportation, health care premiums and tax exemptions.
They did not include non-essential things like sports, after-school classes and other enrichment activities.
In no surprise to many parents, child care remains the biggest driver of rising costs, costing U.S. families $11,752 per year, on average, an increase of 7% from five years ago.
Another sharply rising cost for parents is transportation, which ballooned 276% over the past five years, according to Lending Tree, likely due to the rising cost of gas.
Food and health insurance are also in the top five costs for raising kids, with both also having increased over the past five years.
The most and least expensive places to raise kids
As with most costs, where you live in the United States impacts how much it costs to raise a child.
Mississippi is the least expensive state in which to raise kids, according to Lending Tree, coming in at an average of $15,555 per year.
Two other states in the South -- Alabama and Arkansas -- follow Mississippi closely in being the cheapest places to parent in the U.S, with an average cost of $16,192 and $16,284, respectively.
Lending Tree noted that the least expensive states to have kids each also had the lowest day care costs for infants, averaging at less than $8,000 per year.
While Hawaii is considered paradise for its beauty and weather, it ranked as the most expensive state to raise a child, at an average cost of $30,506 per year, and a total of $314,529 over 18 years, according to Lending Tree.
Washington, D.C., ranked as the second most expensive place for parents, with an average cost of $30,097 per child per year.
The state of Washington came in third most expensive with an average cost of $28,116 per year, according to Lending Tree.