The cost of children
Quick summary of "Small Fortunes"
The Small Fortunes research is probably the most credible research available in the UK into the cost of bringing up children. Sue Middleton and colleagues, from the Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University, have been pursuing a particular "survey methodology" for years, and she is a regular contributor of evidence to government policy. This is the only research cited in both the CSA reform Green and White Papers.
Small Fortunes identified an average expenditure (during 1995) at about £57 per week (of which 10% came from people other than the parents and some came from Child Benefit). This is for regular expenditure, and also is for easily identified costs. It is a good starting point for identifying the money needed per week for bringing up a child. It doesn't include one-offs or less tangible contributions to a child's well-being such as a better house, better car to travel in, etc. So it doesn't identify the extra money involved when the parents are wealthy, and doesn't help show how to go about helping children share in the wealth of their parents (if at all).
Identifying the implications for child support
It would be useful to have a simple answer to the question "what does it cost to support a child?" This could be put into a formula, or taken into account in court, and people might then accept the results.
In fact, there isn't a simple answer, and never will be. Different people spend different amounts, because of personal preferences, circumstances, different characteristics of the child (age, intelligence, etc), and many other reasons. It isn't what even clear what the question is. Is it: "what does it cost to keep a child alive?"; "what do people actually spend on their children?"; "what should be people spend on their children?". (And "in what circumstances?")
Even if there were a single answer, there isn't agreement about how this should be used for child support purposes. Is it: "each parent should pay half"; "parents should pay in proportion of their income"; "parents should pay according to full consideration of their circumstances, including income & expenses"; "it is none of your business how parents split this between them"?
There will never be an amount or a formula which all will agree on. Typically everyone will object to it, and propose "corrections" or alternatives which (by pure coincidence) would make themselves better off! This is the one consistent pattern in reform proposals - parents with care & non-resident parents both try to make themselves better off.
"How much do children cost?"
But ... without consulting Sue Middleton, I'm going to give some numbers, which take liberties with the Small Fortunes research. This derivation uses published inflation figures from the years concerned to bring the Small Fortunes value up to date, and uses her figure of 17% reduction for a subsequent child.
In spite of the impossibility of giving a reliable single answer to the question "what does it cost to support a child?", here are typical values, which will be used on this web site:
(It is pointless to quibble over pennies).
Example of use
Here is an example of how these values can be used:
An NRP with low housing costs and gross income of about £450 per week, hence perhaps a net income of about £330 per week, under the current scheme will pay nearly £100 per week however many children there are.
The most common number of children is 1, followed by 2, followed by 3. In the most common case, such an NRP is paying much more than both parents would typically contribute to their child in an intact family. What the parent with care is contributing is a separate question. Children in a wealthy family are better off than this.
 Small Fortunes: Spending on children, childhood poverty and parental sacrifice.
 Sue Middleton
 Based on price increases from:
"Dear GOD, My brother told me about being born but it doesn't sound right. They're just kidding, aren't they?"
|Page last updated: 7 July, 2004||© Copyright Barry Pearson 2003|